Ilan Stavans Pilots Program with Regional Radio Station
Issue   |   Wed, 09/23/2015 - 03:07

Spanish professor Ilan Stavans premiered the pilot episodes of his new radio program, “In Contrast with Ilan Stavans,” on New England Public Radio this past July and August.

The show mainly discusses cultural life in New England, but also explores themes such as the art of translation and the politics of using one’s personal voice on public radio. It is structured as a series of interviews, and interviewees in the pilot episodes included a translator and author, a professor of cultural studies, undocumented students from the Five Colleges and members of a local theatre troupe.

In the first episode, aired on July 25, Stavans conducted several consecutive interviews reaching across a variety of topics. The second episode, aired Aug. 1, was a continuation of the Words in Transit project from last year’s Copeland Colloquium and focused on the experiences of immigrants in New England. Both episodes concluded with segments from essays written by Stavans. Stavans said that the final format of the program will resemble the first episode more closely than the second.
Stavans said he chose the program’s title because he hopes to highlight intellectual contrasts during the show.

“I think that journalism works when it allows for a balanced, harmonious way of listening to different, sometimes disparate viewpoints,” Stavans said. “And what the show wants to do is to allow for a multiplicity of viewpoints … for political, ideological, cultural, social opinions to be aired so that they enlighten each other, and not destroy each other.”

The basic concept for the show was created during conversations between Stavans, CEO and general manager of NEPR Martin Miller and executive producer for programming and content John Voci.

“My goal was to make the programs lively while providing an in-depth discussion on topics,” Voci said. “Another goal was to have it be multicultural in terms of topics and guests. I think that we were successful in accomplishing both objectives.”
Voci worked on planning, interview preparation and final editing for the show.

“In Contrast” follows a new collaboration between NEPR and Amherst College in which NEPR can broadcast through the college’s radio frequencies. The station, which was originally housed by the University of Massachusetts and has often invited academics and activists from the area, has a historic connection with the Five College Consortium. Stavans has been featured as a guest on NEPR programs in the past, and previously collaborated with the station.

“In working with Ilan Stavans on the Words in Transit project, it became apparent that he had previous experience as a host and interviewer and that he would be a good candidate to pilot a local program with,” Voci said. “My goal was to create something that was broadly focused on culture and, given Professor Stavans’ experience as an author and teacher, he was ideal for the role.”

Stavans said one goal of the program is to connect local and global issues by capitalizing upon the intellectual atmosphere of the Pioneer Valley.

“We really never feel parochial in this neck of the woods,” Stavans said. “So the program wants to navigate two spheres. How the local behaves — the extent to which we are a community, how that community is changing, its identity, its culture and challenges — and how the rest of the world affects us. I would say that Amherst is a very cosmopolitan place, or at least it feels that way to me.”

NEPR is currently gathering feedback for “In Contrast,” and plans to turn it into a weekly program that will air for one year beginning next April.

“I want this show to be known for its honesty, for its openness, and for its engagement with the difficult,” Stavans said.