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National Public Radio’s Newsmagazine Morning Edition Host

Coming Home to Kentucky

 You’ve got to go home. People are just nice here and that is not to be minimized. There is a lot of hostility out there. For the most part, people in Kentucky are nice folks with good values.

What He Learned from Red Barber

  Red Barber (sports broadcasting legend) used to say that he preferred radio over TV because in radio the announcer is the star. Listeners only see what he describes and what they can supplement in their minds with the words they are hearing. In television the announcer is a slave to the picture. When you have a good announcer like Red you could smell the beer and the popcorn.

  I learned to be more spontaneous, be a better ad-libber, which, by extension, makes you a better interviewer, a better listener, and able to go in different directions that maybe you hadn’t planned on. I learned about description. He would throw me curve balls. It amused him. You could hear him almost thinking, “Let’s see what the young fellow does with this.” He would ask me questions. I’m the interviewer, I’m not allowed to have opinions, I’m a news guy. But he would ask me and I would have to say something. He also wanted to see what I was made of.

  He believed in preparation and he believed that everyone else working with him should be as prepared as he was. He thought they were just coasting after their career. To him this wasn’t a celebrity chair to be occupied, this was his job. This was his profession. He thought you should work your way up and learn the ropes and then prepare: Do interviews before the game; talk to the manager; find out who’s hurt, who’s not; who’s hitting well; find out why they moved this guy from third in the batting order to fifth. You should know all of that before you go on the broadcast. Not just sit there like you are at a bar telling stories.

Lack of Concern for Media Accuracy

  The fakery in my profession is rampant now-staged events and re-enactments without identifying them as re-enactments. What have we done? I’m just disgusted with it. News organizations reporting rumors before the other guy can report a rumor that they picked up from some slob on the Internet. This is not the profession I got into 31 years ago.

News Organization’s Content

  Look what they are doing now. Celebrity interviews, Hollywood gossip. This is what moves papers and television. Garbage. You have got so-called news programs, news magazines, in prime time and they are competing with entertainment programming so they feel that they have license to become entertainment themselves.

Television has become Jerry Springer and radio has become Howard Stern and this is where I get off. I have this little island, this little enclave left, and that’s why I stay. 

Fragmentation of the Media

  There is no shared experience. Everyone finds their own little piece of truth. It is a less-informed nation and newspapers are part of the equation there because nobody reads them anymore. Circulation figures are in free-fall and you see newspapers trying to jazz up the product to retain readers or attract young people.
That’s half tragic and half amusing-the attempts to “get down” and be “with it.” More features on rap “artists” and adults trying to be young people. There is nothing uglier than a geezer trying to be hip. It’s pathetic but that’s what a lot of newspapers are doing.

His New Book

  It’s a half-rant, half-memoir about what’s gone wrong with the radio business but how NPR remains an oasis of civility in this era of lowest, common denominator shock jocks and tabloid journalism. I’m not taking time off to write it, so it’s coming out a paragraph at a time.

Optimism for News Media

  I love the History Channel. That is something we didn’t have 10 years ago. C-SPAN is a positive and so is CNN. Although CNN has problems when they have to talk. CNN’s forte is pointing a live camera at an event. There is nothing better than Tiananmen Square for that or the assault on Parliament in Moscow. Now that was dramatic stuff–tanks firing at the Parliament Building. But then, Ted Turner banned all commentary on CNN. They have their shout shows like Crossfire but, as far as commentary within the context of a newscast, he got rid of all of them.

  So they have trouble explaining things and putting things into context which, of course, is National Public Radio’s bread and butter. That is the niche we occupy. We can’t point our camera at a live event, but we can explain things. That’s what we have always done and I think it’s what we do best and what we will continue doing. Why not? No one else is doing it.

Advantages of Radio

  Better pictures. You’re not distracted by the picture. If I’m on television, they’re looking at me and saying “Why can’t he do something with his hair?” or “Look at that tie” and they are not listening. In radio, they do nothing but listen and they’re supplying the pictures and so the pictures are perfect.

Bob’s Bio

25 Years at NPR

20 Years as Morning Edition Host

800 Interviews Yearly

Hometown: Louisville

Bachelor’s: University of Louisville

Career Start: New Albany, Indiana, radio station

Books: Fridays With Red, about the friendship of 12 years of Friday
radio interviews with Red Barber, baseball’s legendary sports announcer

In the Works: A half-memoir, half-rant book

Interview Goals: The Pope and J.D. Salinger

Hobbies: Genealogy. Ancestors include Abraham Lincoln and Basil Hayden, a legendary master distiller of bourbon in the late 1700s and early 1800s

Hear Morning Edition on these National Public Radio stations in Kentucky

Bowling Green WKYU FM 88.9 (270) 745-5489

Elizabethtown WKUE FM 90.9 (270) 745-5489

Hazard WEKH FM 90.9 (606) 622-1655

Henderson WKPB FM 89.5 (270) 745-5489

Highland Heights WNKU FM 89.7 (606) 527-7897

Lexington WUKY FM 91.3 (606) 257-3221

Louisville WFPL FM 89.3 (502) 574-1640

Morehead WMKY FM 90.3 (606) 783-2001

Murray WKMS FM 91.3 (270) 762-4359

Richmond WEKU FM 88.9 (606) 622-1655

Somerset WDCL FM 89.7 (270) 745-5489

Hear Bob Edwards every weekday on Morning Edition by tuning to your National Public Radio station on your FM radio. For more information, call (202) 414-2000, or go to NPR’s website at
www.npr.org.

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