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TUNING IN

A blog dedicated to the world of broadcast and public relations

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Makes a Good Talk Show Host?

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I recently read an article in “News Talk Edge” on RadioInfo.com about whether Keith Olbermann should consider hosting his own radio show after his dismissal from MSNBC. This got me thinking about what makes a good talk show host.  Not just a popular talk show host, but a good talk show host.
Many days what passes for good talk radio is based merely on a host’s ability to attract and keep an audience.  The minute their audience numbers begin to decline, so does their attractiveness to programmers.
But there is much more to being a good talk show host than a popularity contest.  So I thought I might take the opportunity to explore the type of talk show host that might appeal to a broader audience, not just the ideologues on the far right or left.
If you’re considering becoming a host, do your potential audience a favor, and ask yourself the following questions:
  1. Do you want to explore topics fully?  This means talking to people with whom you may vehemently disagree, yet still have the ability to grant a good point when you hear one.
  2. Do you have an overt political agenda?  While it’s find to have a viewpoint and to express it on the air, if your goal is to get more people of one party or another in office, do us all a favor and go work on a campaign instead of working the airwaves.
  3. Do you have an intellectual curiosity about a number of issues?  Say, pop culture and science or the economy and environment … Having a broad range of interests will have your listeners coming back because they want to know more about the most surprising of things.
  4. Do you consider yourself an expert or are you more interested in inviting experts on your airwaves?  It’s always far more engaging to hear from a variety of different topic area experts than one person with a megaphone who thinks they know something about everything.
  5. Do you want to be a celebrity?  If your outrageous actions put you in the spotlight as the center of the story instead of a vehicle for telling a good story, talk radio may not be your avenue.  Be a commentator on other talk shows, but not the host of your own show.
I know there are those who want to listen to talk radio to cheerlead their own camp and get more people to agree with their politics.  I understand that type of talk radio can be wildly popular with the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Randi Rhodes, but give me shows like NPR’s All Things Considered or WJR’s The Frank Beckmann Show any day, so I can go boldly into the world with more facts and data to use and maybe, I’ll be just a little smarter from having tuned in…

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