Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bob Edwards: "I Like to Learn Things."

BOB EDWARDS ATTENDED college during the tumultuous 1960s, the politically-charged era when young people took to the streets and called for change.

"I wanted to be a part of the events but not a participant," Edwards said in class yesterday.

So after serving in the military, he embarked on a radio career that landed him in the radio hall of fame. After 30 years at NPR, he now does his daily interview show on Sirius XM satellite radio, which reaches more than 20 million subscribers.

His passion for radio actually began when he was only 3, as a child in Kentucky listening to radio stations from far off places like Cincinnati.

As a young professional journalist, he mimicked his radio heroes like Edward R. Murrow.

"In my early days at NPR," Edwards said, "I sound like I'm sitting on an object."

A colleague told him to loosen up, to just be himself.

While he honed his presentation style, he continued to believe in Murrow's methods - investigate stories, understand them, reach conclusions and present that educated analysis to the audience with accuracy and fairness, but not necessarily with balance.

"Balance means that a liar gets the same amount of air time as a truth-sayer," Edwards said.

Here are a few other things that stood out to me from his visit:

• "The MOST IMPORTANT thing in any form of journalism is writing," he said.
• He prefers the Associated Press' style of detachment in journalism, rather than the opinionated information that is becoming popular today. "What do you learn by consistently going to someone with the same point of view as yours?" Edwards asked. "There are no surprises. I don't learn anything."
• Edwards does not have an angle. He says he would not be accepted by the liberals or conservatives.
• On his program, he can cover anything he wants (as opposed to his NPR days when he focused on topics in the news).

• He's a big fan of the Daily Show, Stephen Colbert and The Onion.
• He says it's important to recognize that they are not news. At the end of the day, those outlets are going for ratings. "They are doing it for laughs, not news," Edwards pointed out.
• He said the difference between reporters and bloggers is that reporters make phone calls (to verify information) whereas bloggers make conclusions (not necessarily based upon facts).

• Edwards chooses his story subjects based upon his interests. "I like to learn things," he said. "I don't have to do the news. I do what needs to be enlightened upon, what needs to be illuminated."
• He does massive amounts of preparation for every interview.

• There will always a future for radio, as radio keeps reinventing itself.
• He said that you should make contacts, do internships and hang out at outlets you aspire to work for. "There's no substitute for meeting people," he said.

What stood out for you?

(Big thanks to Windsor Johnston, news director at WRTI, for setting up the visit and leading the discussion.)


Brydels said...

What really stood out to me was how personal he was. I can really get a sense of why he has so many people tuning in. The fact that he has witnessed a huge evolution of journalism over his lifetime has given him an insight into the world of news. Specifically how the internet has changed the way research can be done and the rise of alternative media. It was great to see how passionate he was for journalism.

Marissa Jane said...

When Bob Edwards entered the room clad in jeans, a crew neck, and a nasty scowl, I thought, "Oh boy, he doesn't want to be here at ALL." But as soon as the interview went under way, my previous expectations of his attitude went out the window. As his thoughts on Journalism started to unroll, I realized I liked the fact that he was so casual because it mirrored his philosophy: no BS. Although he loves shows like The Onion and The Colbert Report, he realizes what Journalism needs, not what the journalists themselves need. And he strives to take the role of remaining objective, yet interesting, for journalism's sake, not just his own. He's been in the game for so much longer than any other media personality I've experienced, yet somehow, his perspective seems to be the most realistic and straightforward. What really stuck with me was the way he reminisced over his mentor, Prof. Edward Bliss. Bliss had told young Bob that writing is the most important element of any part of journalism, which personally gives me a dose of encouragement, because writing is what I want to do, despite almost everyone saying it's such a difficult career to pursue. I also have a mentor in the field of journalism, so I could relate to Edwards story. Edward's stories gave me encouragement and insight, and I plan to more closely follow his show.

Sarah Mariano said...

I agree with Marissa. My first thought was, "he want's to bolt out of here as fast as he could," but he was so personable. Although interviews should be professional at some level, they should also be light and easy. He seemed so comfortable. And his advice for the students was very helpful.

Kim Chung said...

Bob Edwards' honesty was incredibly refreshing. To hear the seasoned opinion of someone who has cultivated their career in such a diverse field really gave me a good perspective that the world of journalism is far from being cut and dry, black and white. His story of a humble beginning paired with his honest love of learning brought him from being a faceless radio voice to a genuine person who had much advice for those considering this field. I definitely appreciate him taking time out to speak to the class.

Sarah D'Agostino said...

Bob Edwards was an excellent guest speaker because of how easy-going he seemed. As a student, it's intimidating when someone that talented and well-known is 15 feet in front of you. He answered each question thoroughly and to the best of his ability. It was awesome to have someone like that speak in class.

Alex Grubard said...

I've been telling people all week about him. I felt he was open and I loved hearing him speak about being in college in the 60s and being drafted.

Luke said...

bob Edwards brought a lot of insight into the discussion on journalism. He has witnessed many key historical events take place and been there to document them as well. What I really enjoyed most about the visit from Edwards was the open discussion that took place. Many times when speakers come into classes of mine, you really just hear them tell their story and that's it. Bob was able to really open up when asked more personal questions regarding his career. I found it fascinating that he really has no care to report the "news" anymore. He seems to be very happy with his latest endeavors at Sirius XM. I also really enjoyed his take on the media today and the blatant choosing of "sides" that the media companies have really begun to take. Also, I liked how Windsor would attempt to push Bob with her questions in attempts to get him to open up on a more personable level. Overall, very valuable speaker with great input on the industry.

Kelly Guinan said...

I think the most important thing Edwards touched on was the distinction between reporters and bloggers. Too many people rely on bloggers as their news sources, especially since some may cater more to a person's beliefs, and as a fractured society we choose the sources that fit with our biases. I could never put my finger on why I didn't believe them to be actual reporters, but when he explained that reporters verify their facts and bloggers simply make conclusions, it shed a lot of light on how different the two professions really are.

Mary Gbaya-Kanga said...

Absolutely loved Bib Edwards and his discussion. He had a very laid back attitude which made it easier to speak with him. I also enjoyed how he didn't sugar coat anything down to letting us know the bad side of journalism.