Bob Edwards hosts Q&A session for campus community

Radio Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Edwards took questions from students, faculty and staff in Whitley Auditorium Tuesday, March 6, discussing his new show on XM Radio, his favorite guest during his career and the future of radio and media in the 21st century. Details...

From 1979 to 2004, he served as host of National Public Radio’s Morning
Edition, and currently hosts The Bob Edwards Show on XM Satellite Radio.

During the question-and-answer session, moderated by Assistant
Professor of Communications Rich Landesberg, Edwards said the hour-long
format of his XM show allows him to go in multiple directions. “We have
time,” Edwards said. “It’s not sound bites, it’s actual conversation.”

One thing his show is not, Edwards said, is the ranting of talk radio
hosts like Ann Coulter and Howard Stern. “These are just people trying
to make a living, and that’s the way you make it if you don’t have any
other gifts.”

In response to a question about the proliferation of camera phones,
blogs and other avenues that essentially allow anyone to be a
journalist, Edwards said they are a mixed blessing.

“On the one hand, you’re gaining the democratic process of having more
input from more people, but you are losing the trained professional,”
Edwards said, citing the outstanding work of investigative reporters at
countless newspapers who have reported on political greed, corruption
and misdeeds. “I wonder who’s going to do that work when the newspaper
is lost and replaced by blogs.”

An audience member skeptical of NPR asked Edwards if the network is any different from commercial media outlets.

“NPR is too timid,” said Edwards. “They’re so afraid to be called
liberal. They are pulling punches because they are so afraid they’re
going to make the president look bad. You can’t be afraid to report on
what you see. Sometimes, the truth hurts.”

While technology has changed the way reporters gather the news, Edwards said one fundamental thing hasn’t changed.

“Good conversation is still good conversation,” Edwards said. “I don’t
think that’s changed. You have to encourage people to be comfortable
and talk about whatever they want. Don’t ask any question that can be
answered yes or no, and don’t have people on your show who don’t like
to talk.”

Edwards has interviewed more than 20,000 newsmakers during a career
that has spanned more than 30 years. He said his best interview was two
years ago and it wasn’t with a world leader or someone famous.

“Gregory Boyle is a priest in East LA who works with gang members,”
Edwards said. “He tells these stories so well. They’re very funny in
some cases, sad in others. But he’s doing the Lord’s work—and I see so
many politicians who embrace Jesus for the sake of politics and they’re
hypocrites—and yet here’s a guy who’s living the good word.”

When asked how he chose radio as a career, Edwards said the seeds were planted early in his childhood in Louisville, Ky.

“We had radio before we had TV, and it was my pal, it was my buddy. At
age 4, I knew where all the stations were on the dial and I listened to
stations like WLS in Chicago, or WSM in Nashville. It was pretty cool
listening to these stations from out of town in Louisville and
wondering if I’d ever go to those cities. With radio, you’ve got the
pictures right in your mind. It speaks directly to you. It’s what I
knew I wanted to do.”

Edwards will give a public lecture based on his latest book, “Edward R.
Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism,” at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday in
McCrary Theatre.