What captures your imagination?
May 15, 2018

I never fancied a career in public radio. I didn’t think I was sophisticated enough. I’m a journalist who inspires people to do what works -- at least, that’s the goal -- but I do it simply. Over coffee.

When I found out eleven years ago this spring about a nationwide search for the next public radio talk show host, I wanted to audition anyway. Maybe I was good enough, smart enough…

The premise was simple. Put your best two minutes online, and demonstrate “hostiness.” Be engaging, smart, curious, someone you’d like to have dinner with. Darrell was sure I had what it takes. So he interviewed me about interviewing other people, and created my entry with excerpts from the answers.

“Nobody’s ever asked me that,” my audition began. I’m told that by people who get interviewed constantly, and that’s what makes me feel great about my work  -- when I’m told that I ask the questions nobody thinks of asking.

I put everything else aside, I continued, and I focus on what they’re saying. I’m not thinking about what I have to do this afternoon or why my shirt feels so uncomfortable. I immerse myself in people, and I think they feel that -- they feel the attention. It’s very flattering to be listened to. You feel safe, and you want to tell this person more. It’s a dance, and much of how well the dance goes is how plugged in you are to each other.

There was more: Your voice reveals everything. Your soul is in your voice. And I think people sense that they know a lot about me the minute I start talking. You can just tell a lot about somebody from her voice. That’s why I think radio is the most fun medium to work in, because it leaves so much to the imagination -- and yet there’s so much you also know immediately from listening to someone. Do you like him? Is she sincere? Is she fun? Would you like to spend more time with him over dinner or whatever? I think that is revealed immediately.

And: It’s not being a host. It’s just talking to people, really listening, giving them what you want most in all the world. And what do we all want? Someone to listen to our stories.

You get the idea. I’ll tell you more about the contest in my next post. But for now, eleven years later, there isn’t a word of my entry I’d change. Everything I want to say about radio is in those two minutes.