Chronicle of Higher Education 2005-11-25

From the issue dated November 25, 2005

Swarthmore Radio Show Airs Voices of Iraqis and U.S. Soldiers

Much of what is broadcast about the Iraq war is murder and mayhem — a roadside bombing, a U.S. soldier killed. But a group of students at Swarthmore College is producing a weekly radio show intended to broaden understanding of the war and its impact on Americans and Iraqis.

Called War News Radio, the show features in-depth interviews with soldiers, Iraqi expatriates, and others, along with news from Iraq.

People can listen on Swarthmore’s radio station, WSRN, or download the audio to their computers or iPods from the program’s Web site (

In one recent show, a student described what it was like to visit an Army recruiting office in Philadelphia. Another student interviewed a graduate of the University of Baghdad who moved to Warsaw, where he was considering opening a diner.

A third student interviewed a 47-year-old member of the U.S. Army’s Individual Ready Reserves who was angry about being called up to serve in Iraq when he thought his military career was over.

The student who had gone to the recruiting station talked about telling an Army recruiter that he had recently smoked marijuana. According to the student, Tevye Kelman, the recruiter advised him to drink at least a gallon of water a day, so that his urine test would not show traces of the drug. The recruiter also warned the student that if he accepted certain jobs in the Army, he was more likely to be deployed to Iraq.

War News Radio also airs a segment on Iraq history, called Iraq 101, in which students offer primers on topics like the difference between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and how Iraqis are struggling to determine how to incorporate Islam into their new Constitution.

Amelia Templeton, a senior at Swarthmore and a contributor to the broadcasts, says the show brings her into contact with people she normally would not meet at Swarthmore — like Esam Pasha, an Iraqi painter whom she did a piece about last summer when he visited New York City. She interviewed Mr. Pasha about his efforts to continue working on his mystical-themed paintings amid gunfire in Baghdad.

The show is produced with the help of Marty Goldensohn, a journalist whom the college hired in June to work with the 25 students who are involved in the broadcasts.

“It’s a pleasure to watch the next generation become interested in public radio,” says Mr. Goldensohn, who was New York bureau chief of National Public Radio’s Marketplace. “It ratifies and reifies your whole life.”

Some students get academic credit for working on the program. Their professors assign them related reading material and ask them to write a list of questions for interviewees.

Mr. Goldensohn says he and the students eventually may market the show to other college radio stations.

War News Radio is the brainchild of J. David Gelber, a 60 Minutes producer and 1963 graduate of Swarthmore, who once worked for Pacifica Radio, an independent network, on the “Vietnam War Summary.” A member of Swarthmore’s governing Board of Managers, he persuaded administrators to support the student-run show.
Section: Information Technology

Volume 52, Issue 14, Page A42