A Movement that can’t be Distilled


Introductions are always tricky. You have to set the right tone, convey critical information and hook the reader (or listener in our case). In journalism, you have your conventional lede or summary of the story to do that. Academic papers have long paragraphs that introduce a thesis statement. So what about a radio documentary? How do you start one of those?

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure. I know we need to make the audience's ears perk up as soon as it starts. Otherwise, why will they listen to the whole thing? And I know we need to make it clear that this is a documentary about counterculture in Champaign-Urbana. I know Illinois Public Media has some suggestions about station identification and making it clear who produced the program too. But I still don't know how to start.

Can you tell that we are in the midst of script writing? Still. Months after our lock-in, we are still working on the script trying to craft a cohesive story and clear narrative.

But counterculture is resisting our attempts! It doesn't like to fit neatly into a series of chronological boxes and behave itself. Instead it is off throwing rocks and fighting injustice and wearing its hair long. Which is a good thing; it is why we love counterculture. But right now, when I am trying to draft an opening paragraph to explain to listeners where we are going with this hour of awesome stories, the unruliness isn't exactly the most helpful thing.

Maybe the task is impossible. Maybe there is not legitimate way to condense a huge cultural movement that is as diverse as can be into a couple of introductory sentences. Maybe you'll just have to listen to the whole thing to get a glimpse of what counterculture was and is. And I mean a glimpse. There have been so many fascinating parts of the story, both local and national that have fallen by the wayside as we try to distill the movement to its essentials. But we are failing, as all people I think must fail, in trying to distill the movement because it just can't be summarized concisely.

Perhaps our documentary will have to be a little different in order to capture the essence of the time; maybe we'll skip the introduction! (Just kidding Mr. Dickey! I'm going back to work on it now!).


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