He joined NPR in 1978 (though now he is at PRI) at age 19 and proceeded to work just about every job imaginable in radio; tape cutter, news writer, editor. Over the next 17 years he also worked on most of Public Radio’s news shows, including stints as host of Talk of the Nation and reporter for All Things Considered. In 1995 he began hosting and executive producing This American Life, a show that delves into the details of life in America. Each show is based on a theme such as "The Kindness of Strangers" and various contributors provide stories on that theme. The stories are funny, touching, compelling, alarming, truth and fiction. And they are always good. He often speaks about how to make radio compelling, how the news isn’t always made to be interesting or involving, even on NPR. “…if the reporter's good and the intro is well written, then you want to hear it. They'll make it so the thing that's the inherent human drama of it becomes clear.” And this is what he does with TAL, you want to listen to it all. I’ve sat in the car for 20 minutes after getting home just so I can hear the end of the show. He is also the cousin of noted 20th century minimalist composer Philip Glass.
From Horizon Magazine:
"At this point, Ira is getting riled up and he starts talking really fast so that I can't keep up with him. 'Hey,' he asks me. 'Are you taping this? How are you getting this all down?' 'Uh, I'm writing it in my notebook,' I reply. 'Can you keep up?' 'N-n-no, I stammer.
Ira offers to tape the interview for me and send me a copy of the tape. I shouldn't be getting paid to write this, I think. Ira is the easiest person in the world to interview. He asks himself questions. He answers them at length. And he even tapes the interview."