You Should Know… Julian Ring

Photo by Samantha Cooper

Julian Ring is an assistant producer at NPR, a job title that requires more explaining than you would imagine. The 25-year-old Oberlin graduate and Piedmont, Calif., native keeps the NPR app humming. And if your timing is good, you can hear him say “tap here.”

Let’s start with your job title.

My title is assistant producer for curation and personalization. But mostly assistant producer is what I tell people.

My job title is kind of misleading, since I don’t produce anything. I act as editorial oversight on the app. I make sure the algorithm is behaving itself and I’m actually going in and as each broadcast show is airing, I’m taking each story and saying, “Where should I categorize this story?” and put in the right place, and moving things around.

I always tell people it’s sort of like putting a puzzle together, except the pieces are changing every two minutes. It can get pretty exciting at times.

What was your most interesting day?

By far, it had to be the day the Mueller report came out [April 18]. We had some lead time in the sense that we knew that it was coming at that specific time on that specific day.

When breaking news happens, shows are doing a live stream. I had to make sure there was a little card in the app saying, “Hey, there’s this big live event happening, tap here.”

I had to go into the actual code of that app and make sure the code popped up. I had to go into a recording studio and record a little voice over saying, “Hey. Tap here to listen to the live coverage.” So like half a million people heard my voice saying that, which is kind of insane to me.

And then during the actual coverage of the event, I had been listening to the show stream and had to be doing what we call live cutting. I had to actually be doing all the cutting myself. I was essentially in an audio editor like frantically cutting up the stories, cutting out the parts I didn’t think were important, moving things together, making sure the intros were OK and frantically plugging them into the system as fast as I possibly could. It was totally exhausting.

But this wasn’t how you began your NPR career.

I was the intern on “All Songs Considered.” It was funny because I had applied for every single summer I was student and had never gotten it. It was my dream opportunity. I figured my last summer, it was last shot.

Oberlin had an interesting program, where during January everybody did a winter project. There was no class and you can basically do whatever you want as long as you can justify it as an
educational pursuit.

For that, I decided to make my own music project at home, So I just holed myself up in my dad’s little music studio for a month and created a couple episodes of me just kind of talking about songs I like, trends in music, interviewed friends of mine and tried to make it sound professional.

It was kind of a shameless rip-off of [All Songs Considered.] I had that in my back pocket and submitted it with my application that summer.

You’re very into music. Tell me about that.

I grew up in a very musical household. My dad is a professional musician. He plays the French horn in the San Francisco symphony and has been doing that for almost 30 years. My mom has worked for various symphony orchestras as a finance manager. My brother is a jazz musician.

I don’t know what most people talk about at their family dinners, but we were always talking about that one part of that Beethoven sonata. I never really wanted to be a performer, but I always more
interested in telling the stories of the people that make [music.]

Do you play?

Yes. I’m a guitar player and a bass player. I’ve played in several bands throughout high school and college. I’m kind of the hunt to see I kind of get plugged into the music scene here in Washington.

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