Bob Edwards: "A Voice in the Box"
A working-class kid from Kentucky, Bob Edwards always dreamed of a career in radio. He got his start at a small station in Indiana whose signal was so weak, some listeners couldn’t hear it unless the wind blew the right way. In just a few years, Bob was asked to read the news for a fledgling start-up known as National Public Radio. By 1979, he was the host of "Morning Edition," which would eventually become the nation’s highest-rated public radio show. How a small-town boy became one of public radio’s most beloved hosts, and why leaving NPR revived his career.
former long-time host of NPR's Morning Edition, author of "Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism" and "Fridays with Red"
In 1979, Bob Edwards became the host of NPR's Morning Edition, a post he held for nearly 25 years. Now, in his new memoir titled "A Voice in the Box," Edwards writes about his more than 30,000 interviews, why he left NPR and what it's like to be a satellite radio pioneer. Edwards talks about his interview style, how radio and the media have changed since his early days, and more.
Putting Himself Through College and Getting in to Radio
Edwards earned his college degree while working full-time, which was the only way he could afford it. He knocked on radio stations' doors, begging to join the staff. His senior year, he got a job in radio, and it was all he had ever wanted to do from the time he was very young. "I thought, a voice in the box. I wanted to be one of those voices in the box, the big, big radio in our living room."
One of Edwards' major influences was Ed Bliss, with whom Edwards had a life-long friendship. Bliss worked at CBS for years and wrote for Edward R. Murrow. "He was a sweetheart, a very sweet, gentle man until you handed in your copy...then he was Attila the Hun." Bliss taught Edwards how to write for broadcast, and he thought there were no small mistakes in writing.
Early Days at NPR
Edwards started at NPR when it was only a few years old, in the early 1970s. He began co-hosting "All Things Considered" with Susan Stamberg in 1974, and learned a lot from her, saying she was "a natural" on the radio and that he could see on a program like "All Things Considered" that the questions had to be at least as interesting as the answers. Edwards enjoyed his early days at NPR. "There's a big difference in the beginning when you're in a tiny little organization and there are no rules and you can have fun. There are also no resources, which is why you can have fun."
Edwards was with NPR for 30 years, most of them in his role as host of "Morning Edition." "At the end it wasn't a lot of fun because there were 27 people in the building who could order me into a studio to change a word or something because the national desk didn't like this or the science desk didn't like this. And I just felt micromanaged." Edwards says he thinks that ultimately, management simply got tired of him and wanted someone else. Sirius XM Radio was one of the first of many offers Edwards received, and he has been doing "The Bob Edwards Show" there ever since.
An Enduring Love for Public Radio
Despite the tensions that surrounded Edwards' exit from NPR, he still loves public radio and continues to fund-raise for WAMU 88.5, the NPR member station in Washington D.c. But he says that public radio needs to find a way of replacing federal funding. "I think the super committee is going to zero out all federal funds to public radio and it's now about seven to 15 percent of a station's budget, and that doesn't sound like much, but try to replace it."
You can read the full transcript here.
Read an Excerpt
Excerpted from "A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio," by Bob Edwards. Copyright 2011 by Bob Edwards. Reprinted here by permission of The University Press of Kentucky: