What is the value of talk radio in such a fractured media landscape and is there such a thing as a loyal listener anymore?
There are loyal listeners. At least they say that they’re loyal. In fact, some of my most loyal listeners aren’t always in love with the show per se, but they check in every day just to find out what’s up. And they listen, which is all I ask.
The value of talk radio is that it can be an ongoing conversation between real people. The quotes cannot be taken out of context. The listener (or viewer if you’re watching on television or online — wosu.org/allsides btw) hears the question and the answer, or lack thereof.
If I’m doing my job and keeping my point of view to myself, then the listener feels good about what they’re hearing. The loyal (in a good way) listener knows that we may not get to all sides every day for every topic but that, over time, we do our best to cover the issues in a satisfying way.
As a host, how do you try to break through all the information noise?
That’s a tough question. In the olden days, there were phone calls and press releases. Then there were faxed press releases. Then there were e-mailed press releases.
Now it’s a constant torrent of press releases on websites, via Facebook, Twitter, e-mail of course, you name it, from all sorts of interested parties on any given subject from same-sex marriage to fracking.
And everyone loves their own message, right?
We have to respect that and put together a show, sometimes on very short notice, with guests who are qualified and interesting. I cut through the noise by trying to hear what people are really talking about and what really matters on any given day. Sometimes, I succeed.
What subject matter or guests really capture the audience’s attention?
Good, breaking news coverage is always important. We’re proud of our work last summer covering the SCOTUS decision on health-care reform.
But public media audiences are interested in almost everything: Culture, the arts, foreign affairs, sports, scandal, politics, gardening, nature, the environment, current events, health, technology, the weather. They like variety, for one thing. And it matters how we put it together.
I could do a weekender-style show interviewing one of the cast from the touring production of Billy Elliot and just talk about what it’s like to be on the road, blah, blah.
Or, I could see it as an opportunity to talk about the larger issue of gender stereotypes, how they are changing or not, and include real ballet dancers, real ballet teachers along with the producers or cast, who always have amazing points of view about what influences the characters they play.
What are the things a host must convey or do to draw an audience in?
I have to bring a genuine sense of curiosity to the studio every day. No one wants to hear how much I know about a topic. They want me to ask the questions that they can’t ask because they aren’t in the studio. That’s what grabs their attention: Honest curiosity, succinct (sometimes I have to work on that!) questions and interesting and qualified guests.