BLS Behind The Scenes: Meet Josh And Myra

May 6, 2021

You’re going to be hearing some new voices in Brave Little State. Who are they, and what do they do? Join us for this meet-and-greet with VPR’s two new engagement producers, Myra Flynn and Josh Crane.

Note: Our show is produced for the ear. We recommend listening if you can! But we also provide a transcript below.

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The transcript

Disclaimer: Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers. They may contain errors, so please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

[Josh Crane] So what would you say we're doing right now? What's, what are, what is your understanding of our goal right now?

[Myra Flynn] Well, I think we're getting to know one another, but, Whilst recording and profiling one another for our first piece so we can kind of use this interview, if you will, to compile our first awesome episode of Brave Little State.

[Josh Crane] Yeah, I think Angela kind of set us up.

(MUSIC: Brave Little State theme song)

Angela Evancie: From Vermont Public Radio, this is Brave Little State. I’m Angela Evancie. Here on the show we answer *your* questions about Vermont, because we want our journalism to be more inclusive, more transparent, and more fun.

Normally you hear a mixture of VPR reporters on BLS, and that’s not gonna change — but you’ll also be hearing a lot from our new producers, Myra Flynn and Josh Crane.

I could simply tell you that Josh and Myra are incredibly talented amazing people, because it’s true. But we journalists like to show, not tell. So today, these two are gonna introduce one another to all of you, so you can hear for yourselves how excellent they are, and get excited for what’s to come here on BLS.

We have support from VPR sustaining members — welcome.

_

What is an engagement producer?

Angela Evancie: OK, very quickly, before I take a backseat... Myra and Josh have job titles here at VPR that have never existed before. They are both engagement producers. What does that mean exactly?

(MUSIC: “Symphony 40 in G minor” by The Sweet Hots)

[Josh Crane]   To me, engagement journalism is not about getting the most tweets or, you know, likes on Twitter. It is really about developing a relationship with listeners as journalists. So opening up our reporting process and finding creative ways to include the communities that we're supposed to be serving and connecting with people who VPR has not traditionally connected with.   

[Myra Flynn] Yeah. All of what you said so beautifully. And also, you know…

Angela Evancie: This is tape from a conversation between Josh and Myra recorded shortly after they started that’s gonna form the basis for this episode. And I must say, it warms my heart.

[Myra Flynn] You know, crowdsourcing has become this beautiful thing that has entered art. And so I'm so excited to see it enter journalism because I, I like that it removes this distance between the reporter and our audience members or our community members or our member members. Right? So that they feel like they can have more direct access to us. So I am so excited to figure out ways to get to know you all.

Angela Evancie: So that’s a bit about how Myra and Josh are going to approach their work here on the show, and in the VPR newsroom. But who are they? It was something they were each wondering about one another when they started their new jobs just over a month ago.

Myra takes it from here.

_

Meet Josh

Myra Flynn: I’ll be honest, my report cards dating back to third grade always came back with the same criticism: Myra does not work well in groups. So I was eager to find out who this new fellow engagement producer would be. I knew they would have to be someone special. Especially tolerant of my hair-brained ideas (some of which come in the form of dreams), my desire to incorporate music into — pretty much everything, and my unrelenting quest to making sure that we as reporters, Brave Little State, and VPR are actively working to uphold our diversity statement which includes this language:

[Angela Evancie] VPR seeks to reflect the diversity of the communities we serve in our content, board and staff. We strive to foster an environment of inclusion where a variety of voices are heard.”

Myra Flynn: And might I say, as far as teammates go, I struck gold with Josh Crane.

(MUSIC: “Flor Vjell” by Fjell)

I’ve learned some beautifully intimate things about Josh in the brief amount of time we have worked together. Like his name, and the story behind it.

[Myra Flynn] So I initially met you as Josh Swartz. Am I pronouncing that correctly?

[Josh Crane] I'll be honest. It's a really kind of impossible name to say correctly, because Josh ends with a sh sound and Swartz does not have a sh sound. And so saying, Josh Swartz, you almost have to pause in the middle. So I never hold it against anyone.

Myra Flynn: But difficulty with name pronunciation is not why Josh changed his name. It turns out, the reason for the name change-- is love.

(MUSIC: “Thoughtless” by Warmbody)

Love for his longtime partner and now wife, Sophie, whom I have yet to meet but feel like I somehow already know. And also for the Adirondacks in Northern New York, the place where Sophie was born, where she and Josh officially tied the knot last Fall, and where Josh happened to be when we recorded this conversation.

Josh and Sophie Crane on their wedding day. They created their last name together, which references Crane Mountain, which is where Sophie was born and where they were married last fall.
Credit Nancie Battaglia

[Josh Crane] When Sophie and I got married, we decided to take Crane as our last name jointly. Crane is her middle name, and she is named after Crane Mountain, which is, if I like, moved two feet to my right, I would be able to see it peeking out of the window. It's where we got married and it kind of represents this place, which is very meaningful to both of us. And we always wanted to kind of ground our family in a physical place. We thought it was a really kind of nice way to mark this new chapter in our life. And so Crane is the name we kind of announced that we would be taking when we got married. And so I'm really excited about it. I love my new name. And, that's the story.

[Myra Flynn] Josh! That is a fantastic story. I was so not expecting you to be such a sweet romantic. I'm actually getting kind of teary. I think that's fantastic and how atypical to create a name together.

[Josh Crane] That's a really good, that's a really good reaction. Our entire family has been really supportive. Everyone has been really supportive. Sophie's grandmother was like: “That's a bird's name. Like, why are you doing that?” And we were like, that's true. It also has these other meanings. So, you know, all things can be true.

Myra Flynn: And while we’re speaking our truths, another of those is that Josh and I are pretty different people. Previous to joining me at VPR, he worked at WBUR, an NPR member station in Boston, and produced a number of award-winning podcasts and audio documentaries.

I, on the other hand, am new to public radio. I spent the last 15-years in the music industry.

And that’s not all. Josh loves lunch, whereas I forget to eat it almost daily…

[Josh Crane] I mean my favorite lunch is to have leftovers because I like dinner food typically, but I'll eat it at any time of day. So I'm a big I'm a big leftovers person.

Myra Flynn: But despite these differences, I’m realizing Josh and I have quite a bit in common when it comes to the important stuff. Like allyship, listening, and a shared fearlessness in our work at VPR.

And let's just talk about it. Josh is white.

[Josh Crane] Yes I am.

(MUSIC: “Tricky Pothos” by Kokura Station)

Myra Flynn: And since all of you BLS listeners cannot see me right now, I should note for context that I’m not. I’m a Black identifying bi-racial woman. But we’re talking about Josh right now...more on me later.

[Josh Crane] ….In my professional experience, white men have traditionally not been the people stepping up to really do the work of diversity, equity, inclusion, and I think in part that comes from a place of fear of making a mistake and being called out. How I approach these issues is that I need to use the privilege that I have and the platform that I have to elevate the voices of others and to, you know, be willing to kind of get down and dirty and do the work when it might be more emotionally taxing or otherwise taxing for other people to do the work.

Myra Flynn: I think it’s safe to say that group work has changed since the third grade. And speaking of safe, I feel very safe with Josh. I actually really look forward to seeing him daily as we dive into some of this work he talks about here.

[Myra Flynn] I especially loved what you said about being willing to be called out or be wrong and not being afraid of that. And since we’ll be engaging with the community, I imagine we will be getting called out, both of us, quite often.

[Josh Crane] Absolutely. Absolutely. Bring it on, bring it on.

Myra Flynn: You heard the man. Vermont, we’re here. Here to engage, here to make an impact, and here to listen. Bring it on.

Angela Evancie: When we come back, we hear from Josh… about Myra.

_

Meet Myra

[Myra Flynn] What do you want to know? Do you do want to know anything about how much you're going to enjoy me or how fabulous I actually am on the daily things like that?

[Josh Crane] You know, believe it or not, Myra, I do feel confident that I already know those things. So I'm going to ask you other things…

Josh Crane: And other things I did ask, which we’ll get to… in a minute. But I’d actually started to get to know Myra weeks earlier. Right after I’d found out she was to be the other new engagement producer at VPR.

No, I didn’t call her up and say hi, or tell her how excited I was to work with her. Instead, I did what any self-respecting journalist would do -- I spent the next few hours going down a Google rabbit hole, arming myself with as much information about my coworker-to-be as the internet had to offer.

(MUSIC: “Huffalo” by High Horse)

It was kind of like… this.

[Montage of Josh surfing the Web and muttering to himself as he discovers that Myra is a rockstar, has a baby, has a wine named after her and does not know how to whistle.]

And look — let me just spoil the surprise for all of you keyboard warriors — I’m not a professional recording artist, nor do I have a wine named after me (though I can whistle-whistle). But if you get the Brave Little State newsletter, maybe you’ve already seen pictures of Myra and me. And even at a quick glance, you can get a good sense of our other differences. Yes, I’m a white man and Myra is a Black woman. Also, in my photo, I’m posing the only way I know how — by cheesing hardcore. Full-on dorky smile. In Myra’s photo, she has her arms crossed like a badass, and she’s serving up some true blue steel, I’m a cool mother-effer vibes. I’m wearing a blue button-up shirt. Myra’s wearing what I can only describe as a fluffy pink robe!?

Josh and Myra, cheesing and pink-fluffy-robing, respectively.
Credit Josh Crane and Myra Flynn, Courtesy

(MUSIC: “Copley Beat” by Skittle)

So fast-forward to right now… after talking to Myra, and working with her for a minute, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Myra backs up her very cool headshots with an infectious warmth and really strong sense of purpose.
  • She has a beautiful baby daughter who often wears a onesie covered in pineapples.
  • Myra’s a big fan of Joni Mitchell and a glass of wine on Friday afternoon.
  • Aaaand she’s also pretty funny. You can take her word for it.

[Myra Flynn] I think I'm really funny.

Josh Crane: I also learned that Myra really loves to surprise people. And so her recent cross-country move back to her home state of Vermont was a golden opportunity.

[Myra Flynn] Even when we moved here from Los Angeles, it's coming up on like a month now we've been here, we didn't tell anyone. We didn't tell my family. We didn't tell my friends. It kind of came off as a little bit of a prank because nobody believed that we were really here until they saw our stuff, you know, physically in the house.

[Audio of Myra surprising her friends and family plays excitedly in the background]

Josh Crane: Something else I learned about Myra is that her name, like mine, comes with a story.

[Myra Flynn] I'm so proud of where my name comes from, I'm named after my grandmother, Myra, and she has passed. But she was such a, you know, a spirit, a spirit creature to me.

(MUSIC: “Grimmail” by Scalcairn)

Mathis is my middle name. That was my mother's maiden name. And I believe I've traced it back to some roots in slavery in Alabama, which is where my grandmother was from. So I think some of the things that can be really important to know about African-American names in history is that there's only so far back that we can trace them because we don't know what our names were previous to slavery. So most of the time we hit a dead end.

And then my last name Flynn is just super Irish. My father is Irish and he's got nine brothers and sisters and they're all named like Johnny, Tammy, Theresa, Timmy, you know, all of these Irish names, big family.

Josh Crane: Myra says she loves the amalgamation of cultures and histories her name represents. Her family means a lot to her, which is part of the reason she moved back to Vermont. And while most people know Myra Flynn the highly acclaimed singer-songwriter, her musical journey can be traced back to her childhood in Vermont.

Myra Flynn performing at her CD release party for her fourth album, Half Pigeon, at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph.
Credit Myra Flynn, Courtesy

[Myra Flynn] I started classical piano lessons at the age of four. I remember because I broke my wrist on the monkey bars and my parents still made me go to my first lesson. So I started one handed piano lessons at the age of four. And you know how most kids try to quit? I didn't.

And you know, what's really great about being on your own as an only child in rural Vermont is nobody's there to — nobody is there for comparison. So you never doubt your own abilities or your own confidence.

Josh Crane: And one of the reasons Myra loves making music is actually closely related to what drew her to join VPR.

[Myra Flynn] As Nina Simone once said, "an artist's responsibility is to reflect the times."

And now in this role, I get to reflect not only our times, but our people, our direct community. And I hope to do that justice, I hope to serve well, everyone that we are in contact with, everyone we touch. And I also hope to serve those who are underserved.

(MUSIC: “Ferus Cut” by Banana Cream)

[Josh Crane] Well, Myra, I am I'm really, really excited to work with you. There's my dog, Myra. I am really excited to work with you, to collaborate with you, to learn from you. And I think we have a lot of very exciting things ahead of us.

[Myra Flynn] Yes. Josh, I am so excited to work with you, definitely to learn from you.  Alright, Josh, I’ll see you around the Zoom office! Alright, see you there.

(MUSIC: Brave Little State theme song)

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Thanks so much for listening to the show — and thanks to Josh and Myra for being up for this special meet-and-greet episode. You’ll be hearing lots more from both of them in the future.

If you have a question about Vermont that you want our team to answer, ask it at bravelittlestate.org. While you’re there you can sign up for the BLS newsletter, and vote on the question you want us to tackle next. We are on Instagram, Twitter and reddit @bravestatevt.

This episode was produced by Myra Flynn and Josh Crane; with sound design by Josh Crane. Ty Gibbons composed our theme music; other music by Blue Dot Sessions and Myra Flynn, whose tunes you also may hear in future episodes.

Brave Little State is a production of Vermont Public Radio. If you’re a fan of the show, you can make a gift at bravelittlestate.org/donate. Or just tell your friends to listen.

We will back soon with more people-powered Vermont storytelling. Until then, remember: Be brave. Ask questions.