The (Homeless) Man With the Golden Voice

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The Columbus Dispatch did something unusual this week. When a reporter came across a homeless man with a stunning Golden Age of Radio voice, they did not write a milquetoast profile or use it as a news peg for a series on the plight of the homeless in Ohio. Instead, they made a short, cheap video of the man, Ted Williams, and posted it to their website.

That, in and of itself, didn't seem to do much. But someone then posted the video to YouTube, where it has accelerated faster than almost any video that I've seen. It's received more than four million views in the last day and is the most-watched video on the site today. The man's voice is amazing and Americans love a good redemption story. Williams says in the video that he used to be addicted to drugs but he's been clean for two years now, yet still unable to get a job.

So, Reddit users organized around finding the man a job, actually raising money and coming up with gigs for him. And while all this was going on, Williams himself -- being homeless -- was nowhere to be found. People went out looking for him and eventually he was found, no doubt a little stunned that millions of people on the Internet had suddenly taken an interest in him.

At least today, he's got no shortage of work.

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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