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An Interview With John Hockenberry


The popular public radio show The Takeaway was broadcast live from the WFAE studios this morning, and host John Hockenberry was kind enough to join me live in the studio during Morning Edition for a few minutes before The Takeaway went on the air.

I asked Mr. Hockenberry what made The Takeaway different from other public radio programs. He explained to me that the goal of the program is to not only create a conversational approach to the news of the day during the course of the program, but for it to be the kind of news that becomes part of the conversation the listener has throughout the day.

Listeners have many avenues to offer input to a conversation-based show nowadays (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, website, E-mail) versus the days where the only way to offer your thoughts to a radio show was via telephone.  I asked Mr. Hockenberry how the game has changed with listeners having so many options.

The people that call in to call-in radio basically want to give speeches and offer their opinions. That's been going on since there were phones and radios. That's an old model. What you've found with E-mail comments and Twitter, particularly, is that there is also a self-edited constituency out there in the world who are media consumers who have very pithy, specific things to add to a conversation. And our invitation is this: tell us a story, tell us what you know. How is your expertise related to what we are talking about?

Hockenberry went on to say that while there is certainly a share of people who feel the need to simply offer up their opinion, the majority of the people who take the time to write in find their place and relevance in the story.

Radio is hardly the only media medium that Hockenberry has worked in. After getting his start in public radio he has spent time on national television, written for newspapers, authored books, and then come full circle back to public radio to host The Takeaway. When I asked him why he returned to radio, he told me that The Takeaway was an exciting opportunity to take on a new challenge, and initially provide an alternative to "morning drive." Since moving to middays, Hockenberry describes the collaboration now between The Takeaway and Morning Edition  as "an improvement to the sense of discourse in public radio," and that it has relaxed a little bit.

The Takeaway can be heard on 90.7 WFAE Monday through Thursday at 2 PM.