550: Three Miles hosted by Chana Joffe-Wal

photo by Dean Terry
photo by Dean Terry

550: Three Miles, a podcast from This American Life, is the story of a program designed to bring students together from two different schools that happen to be only three miles apart. Students from University Heights High School, a public school in the poorest congressional district in the Bronx, and Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a private high school that costs $43,000 a year in the Bronx, are paired up to see how the other side lives.

The host, Chana Joffe-Walt, looks into the lives of students from the program years later and what affects it had on them.

 Incorporation of nat sound:

There wasn’t too much nat sound but there was just enough in the right places. The nat sound is incorporated for the most part during the interviews. Towards the middle of the podcast, Chana Joffe-Walt goes to look for Melanie at her apartment. You can hear the door to the apartment building open, the sound of the buzzer and then Melanie boyfriend’s voice comes in. Also, while Chana Joffe-Walt walks with Melanie, you can hear the pace of their footsteps and the sound of cars passing by.

The use of nat sound in these places makes the interviews seem more relatable because it places the person in their “element” and allows them to open up and see them in a more natural setting.

Engaging and clear (hopefully) voice of the host:

Chana Joffe-Walt tone is engaging. She changes tone throughout the podcast, especially when asking a question to the listeners. Her voice is easy to listen to and she articulates her voice clearly.

 Tightness/clarity of the script:

The script is tight. Chana Joffe-Walt sets the scene in the beginning of the podcast with background information. She describes the appearance of the two schools in detail.

There is a good back and forth between the narration and her sources. She does a good job of setting up each person’s background before they start speaking. This is helpful because it allows the listener to gain a mental picture of who these people are.

Incorporation of a number of different voices:

One of the reasons that makes this podcast a great listen, is the multitude of different voices. There are about eight different voices other than the narrator’s. The different voices create a change in pace that keeps the listener engaged and not get bored. Each time a new person is introduced, it allows the listener to want to stay and hear their story.

Personality that comes through:

Each of the different people in the podcast has their own distinct personality. Some have more of a livelier voice; while others have more of a monotone voice.

A mix of personalities also helps keep the podcast enjoyable for the listeners because it doesn’t remain stagnant.

Transparency (the reporter lets us in on their journey):

There is never a point in the podcast where the source is not introduced. Chana Joffe-Walt even lets the listeners know how she got in contact with the person, whether through a previous source, a friend’s recommendation, or though pubic.

Cohesiveness of the story. Were you engaged throughout? Did they hold your attention?:

If I’m being honest I usually don’t sit through a podcast in one sitting. However, this podcast was the exception. Chana Joffe-Walt’s narration was engaging and I liked how she asked herself questions throughout the podcast. This made the podcast seem more personal and interactive, almost like you wanted to ask yourself the same question.

For someone who likes a mystery I would defiantly recommend this podcast. Although, not intended to be a mystery, I wanted to stay tuned in to see how each persons’ story turned out. The podcast shines a light on the different economic classes within our society and makes you feel personally invested by the end.


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