Glynn Washington

Oakland’s Glynn Washington beat out more than 1,000 competitors five years ago in an “American Idol”-type national talent search for a new public radio host. Washington created and hosts the NPR/PRX program “Snap Judgment” out of Oakland. He joins us as part of our First Person series on the leaders, innovators and other compelling characters that make the Bay Area unique.

Interview Highlights

On Wanting to Change Public Media

“I often time didn’t see my communities reflected in public media. I didn’t see my intonations respected. I didn’t see my people represented. And I say that very, very, very broadly. Public radio does a great job of hitting a certain segment of the population. If you are an educated white man over the age of 47 in this country, you listen to public media. But there’s lots of other groups that are part of the public, and are just as smart, just as engaged, just as willing to tell their own stories, and just as interesting to listen to.”

On Bringing Oakland to Public Radio

“In the same way that Boston is the milieu for Car Talk, that Minnesota is the home of Prairie Home, we find our home base in Oakland. And it's in these lines, between ethnicities and cultures [where we create our show]. Whenever you have different ethnicities and different cultures mixing it up, you always get great food and great stories. And we can throw a microphone outside the window, and see what happens as far as storytelling.” 

On What 'Snap Judgment' Tries to Achieve

“We want you to feel the perspective of someone else who maybe very, very different from you, and not see it as foreign.”

  • Anon

    Glynn Washington is TOO talented. I suspect the reason there aren’t comments yet is because he’s really too young for Forum listener demographics. But he makes a smart show that has all the pop and sizzle of the best of his generation.
    I’ve noticed some shows on PRI have tried to co-opt his style. Good luck with THAT! Nice that he credits his cohorts and ira glass’s show as inspiration. GW is a “win” for public radio.

  • RA

    These snap judgment stories are … too “loud”.  They’re …over-earnest and the tone is too insistent.   Like it’s trying to convince me that this is super deep and important stuff.

    It’s like listening to Morpheus from the Matrix.  It’s good for 2 minutes while he reveals the nature of the universe but then it keeps going and going and that’s just tiring.

    So to me they feel more like an intrusion and a manipulation than entertainment and that’s why i don’t really listen to the show.

    • Anon

      Over-earnest is a more apt description of Ira Glass’ show, but then again, that’s part of TAL’s success.

      I’m relieved they found someone as talented as GW. As a “white” person, I have to say that the lack of diversity in hosts has been suffocating. Ira Glass is solid talent, but NPR/PRI is chockfull of mediocre white hacks – it all sounds like so much mushy oatmeal. David Simon comes to mind as a guy who should be forcibly retired. OTOH, if you’re “colored” in public radio, chances are you’ve got an outsized talent that couldn’t be ignored forever.
      Witness: Ray Suarez, Tavis Smiley and now Glynn Washington.

  • Joe

    That school bus story reminded me of experiences I had as a kid growing up in Pennsylvania in a dominantly white town.  Experiences like that aren’t easy to relive even 10, 20 or 30 years later.  Props to you to have the courage to lay that down.

  • Leslie

    I am so excited to hear Glynn on Forum.  I just love this program – I save the podcasts, or rather hoard them, so I don’t listen to them too quickly.  Some of those stories are indeed dark, but so thoughtfully told and so respectful to the story teller that they end up engaging to the listener, instead of queasy.  And I am old, so the previous poster is way out there!  Thanks Glynn…

  • Lisa

    what’s the name of the story about the infertile couple just mentioned?  Can’t find it on the SJ site. 

  • Jennabeth

    Laughing till tears at the reunion, forced meeting of your cousin who had lived in Malaysia. One of the reasons I hesitate attending my high school reunion Is the religious emphasis, being asked what church I attend, or being told I need to get back to church. Is this just a “black thing”?

    Only caught Snap Judgment by accident, didn’t know of its Oakland base, will be a regular listener from now on. Count my vote on the motion to broadcast the program in the Sunday Car Talk slot. Besides, it’s all archives since the program has ended.

  • Rebeca

    Yes, I am also looking about the infertile couple story

    • Nfolkner

       “Dear Mama” Embryonic

  • HM

    Just happened to tune in while on my way to work this morning. Loved the back of the bus story and just had to look up who the source of this amazing storytelling experience is. Will check out the program “Snap Judgement.” Thanks, Forum, for introducing fresh voices!

  • Aztlanow

    Love Snap Judgement listen to it twice a week

  • Jodesmet

    Black and white … For me as a non native English speaker, it is difficult to hear the small differences to know who I’d on the other side. I used to have a manager working in a different state, I knew him to be black only after a few months. Didn’t surprise me, but it kind of made me wonder why I didn’t discover before.
    Btw, my father has that gap, he isn’t black, and that being a frequent reference I didn’t get it very quickly.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor