Piece Comment

Review of Women of the YW

This piece offers the voices of women talking, over uplifting music, about harrowing experiences of domestic violence and illness, and about the haven they've found living among other women in the Lynchburg, Virginia YWCA. A couple of minutes in, the piece begins to sound like a promotional bit for the YWCA. No wonder: that's the purpose for which it was originally produced.

This raises an intriguing question. Public radio reporters routinely produce earnest, positive pieces about non-profit service organizations and the people they serve. Sometimes those organizations wind up linking to such pieces on their Web sites, effectively using them as promos. Why shouldn't things run in the other direction? Why can't an audio piece produced for a non-profit, especially a piece made pro bono by an independent media-maker, double as a bit of impressionistic journalism?

With some more editing, it might have worked better in this case, at least on the surface. The recordings are good and the women's stories are compelling and well put-together. Trouble is, there are a few too many direct references to the blessings of the YW, and, just as jarring, the music is the light and "healing" sort routinely heard in PSA's and hospital ads. These factors, combined with the knowledge that the piece was in fact done as a promo for the YW, would put me off if I were a station PD. At the very least I'd think that the origins of the piece should be disclosed to the audience.