How does authority work? Sometimes it is a style of performance rather than a matter of substance, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s just what we’re used to rather than a considered judgment about what counts in the world. Ira Glass tells how he sees it in his field:#

“I think it comes down to, like, What do you think authority comes from? And back when we were kids authority came from enunciation, precision, [Baldwin: ‘Right, delivery.’] and a kind of gravitas that you are bringing to the character you are playing, and I think that, you know, not just me but a whole generation of people feel like, well, that character’s obviously a phony pretending to be this, like, cartoon, sort of, like the newscaster on The Simpsons, with a deep voice, having gravitas. And so I think a lot of us just went in the other direction, and for me, I felt like, you know, any story hits you harder if the person delivering it doesn’t sound like some news robot but in fact sounds like a real person having the reactions a real person would have and be surprised and amazed and amused and all of those things.” #

To get past the beautiful veneer of the professional broadcaster, Glass spent time unlearning that style and trying for a style much more like everyday speech. This means that authority can sometimes find its roots in the heart and mind of a person rather than in an institution or a person trained and accredited by an institution. This gets us to the territory of the essayist, the blogger, perhaps the active citizen, certain kinds of stand-up comics—people who locate meaning in their own experiences and shape a public voice from that source and, as James Baldwin wrote, “renew themselves at the fountain of their lives.” (The Fire Next Time)#

Source: Ira Glass in a conversation with Alec Baldwin on the Here’s the Thing podcast's 11/24/14 episode, starting at 2:05 or so.

© 2015 Ken Smith.
Last update: Wed, Dec 16, 2015 at 7:43 AM.
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