To This American and Alix Spiegel

by Berck

While listening to “Freedom Fries” (Ep. 545), I realized that I’d sinned an enormous sin of omission by not having written in before. Had I known that there was anyone who disliked the voices of Chana Joffe-Walt, Miki Meek, or Alix Spiegel, I would have immediately voiced my support for these very voices. I’ve been listening to This American Life since the late ’90s, and these voices have been comforting to me.

It would never have occurred to me to write in to proclaim the virtues of female vocal fry along with all the other positive qualities of the voices of the female reporters because I’d be sure that doing so would make me sound like some sort of creeper. But now I’m just going to have to take that risk because you guys (and girls) need to know that not all your listeners are tasteless misogynists.

Years ago, when only a few minutes into hearing Alix Spiegel’s voice in the excellent “81 Words”, I was mesmerized. While the piece itself was wonderful, regardless of the voice that might have narrated it, I was completely entranced by Spiegel’s voice. I fell in love with her voice while listening to that piece, and it’s turned into a decade-long obsession. At a time when I rarely listened to the NPR news shows, I made an effort to check for new Alix Spiegel stories online and listened to each one with the sort of excitement generally reserved for new Star Trek TNG episodes. The content didn’t really matter to me for two reasons. First, Alix seems to have such a dedication to her reporting that she doesn’t waste my time with boring stories, so I knew I’d never be disappointed. Second, I’d gladly listen to her read the phone book. For hours. I’ve often wondered what she might charge to record an audio book, because an audio book read by Alix Spiegel would be the best audio book ever.

When Planet Money started, it was Chana Joffe-Walt’s pieces that most attracted me to the podcast. I found her style engaging but relaxing. I was crushed to learn she was leaving Planet Money, but elated to learn she joined This American Life.

I don’t know that it’s specifically vocal fry that I like about Alix or Chana’s voice, but I certainly don’t mind it. Years after first becoming mildly obsessed with Spiegel’s voice, I stumbled across several posts on the Language Log about vocal fry, and realized immediately that was the thing that Alix Spiegel does. I started noticing it more often, but unlike others, I find it somewhat endearing. I was glad to see that TAL cited Mark Lieberman in this piece.

As a data point: I’m a 34 year old male, and there are voices I don’t like, but I guess they’re different voices from everyone else’s. For example, I was slow to like This American Life because I really hated Ira’s voice, but I don’t notice it at all now. I’m also not a fan of Zoe Chace’s voice.

So, please, ignore the nay-sayers and do what you do best.

Berck

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