Talk Radio: It’s Much Harder Than It Looks

William Lobdell of LA tried a stint as a talk radio host. Apparently, it’s harder than it looks.

“As soon as the show’s opening music boomed into my headphones, my mind began to shut down. You wouldn’t think being a talk radio show host would be all that tough — just read a few newspapers, magazine and Web articles others have slaved to produce and then riff about them.
But here’s the hard part. It’s just you, your voice and the microphone. You are giving a monologue in an empty studio. You can’t see your audience or sense their engagement. It felt like being locked in a sensory-deprivation chamber. Time seemed to slow, the awful way it does during a car accident.

I spoke too fast and stumbled on my words, which caused me to get more nervous. This made me speak even faster and stumble on more words. Can you sense the pattern?
The technical aspects of hosting a radio show flummoxed me as well. My producer kept barking instructions in my ear, messing up what little rhythm I had going. I had to put callers on the air, a seemingly simple task that resulted in several hang-ups and accompanying dial tones that made the airwaves.

And I had to be constantly aware of the time, making sure the show broke away smoothly for commercial breaks and news (another failure). Though I was clearly a dead host talking, the callers and e-mailers — smelling blood — went after me with a disturbing glee. A rabid bunch, they didn’t take kindly to having a member of the mainstream media take over for their beloved conservative host.

It didn’t matter that I spouted no liberal views. They hated me anyway, calling my questions “stupid,” critiquing my voice as “too high,” and accusing me of calling Gen. David H. Petraeus a liar when I suggested that his report to Congress, like any other, should be looked at critically before accepting it as gospel.

Over the years, I’ve been interviewed by many talk-radio personalities and am a regular on Larry Mantle’s show on NPR’s KPCC (89.3 FM). Answering questions from a professional host is as easy as having a conversation with a friend.

But on the other side of the microphone, it’s just you and an unseen audience that wants to be entertained and informed immediately — or they change the dial. It’s a very lonely place. Like the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium.