Monday, December 9, 2013
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Morning Sentinel reporter Doug Harlow speaks with a subject on the phone while using an electro larynx battery-powered voicebox device.
Staff photo by David Leaming
Emily Kwong, 23, a student at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland.
Emily Kwong’s work can be seen at www.emily-kwong.com.
For more information on the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, go to www.salt.edu.
Information on the Third Coast Audio Festival, including the nine winners of this year’s festival, and to listen to the winning pieces, visit thirdcoastfestival.org.
Harlow lived in Boston during the 1960s and 70s, working as a cab driver, street poet and at the Unicorn coffee house. He covered the punk rock movement for a now defunct weekly paper, Timestream, in the early 1980s; and wrote for Art Zone magazine.
When the coffee shop closed, Harlow traveled between Boston, where he made the money he needed to travel, and Europe and north Africa. In 1979, he met Mary Lou and they settled in the Somerset County town of Athens in 1986.
Many of those details are not included in the documentary, although Kwong said they are some of the first things that intrigued her about Harlow.
She instead, at the encouragement of her Salt Institute editor Michael May, focused her story on his struggle to speak with the electrolarynx, because speech is a critical part of radio journalism.
Radio allowed Kwong to capture volume, inflection and even what it sounds like for Harlow to laugh with the electronic voice, all things he had to relearn after his surgery.
“It’s such a great story to do on the radio because it’s about Doug’s voice and it’s that much more visceral to hear him using his electronic voice. I just think that if you did this as a print piece it wouldn’t be as powerful as it is,” said May.
Kwong visited Harlow at his home, met his family and visited him in his office in Skowhegan while reporting the story.
“We kind of developed this relationship over the course of a few weeks and while I’m the person winning this award, Doug was the reason why the piece was successful. He’s just that interesting and generous of a person. I just had to be open to the opportunity to get to know him,” said Kwong.
In addition to “Parts of Speech,” there are two other pieces produced by former Salt Institute students that were winners at the festival, said May.
Mooj Zadie worked on the piece “Jack and Ellen” for Love + Radio and Courtney Stein was a co-producer of “The Modern Scarlet Letter A” on WNYC’s show Radio Rookies.
Kwong’s piece is unique, however, in that it was produced at the Salt Institute, he said.
On Sunday, three grand prize winners will be announced from among the nine festival winners. The results will be posted live on Twitter and the public will also have a chance to listen to all nine winning pieces during a national broadcast later this fall. Shapiro said a date for the broadcast hasn’t been chosen yet but when it does air it will potentially be listened to be thousands of people around the country on the Public Radio Exchange, a national public radio station.
“For the piece to resonate like this and be distributed nationally means a lot to me but my hope really is that it means something to Doug,” said Kwong. “Not only has he succeeded in living his life, but he went beyond what anyone could have expected and it’s worthy of some kind of admiration.”
Rachel Ohm — 612-2368
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An electro larnyx battery-powered voicebox device.
Staff photo by David Leaming