Friday, March 24, 2006

Radio Days

If you make your radio debut, but never hear about it happening, does it actually make a sound?

Some context: last month, a person from National Public Radio approached me for an interview on the Florida Marlins. They'd noticed that I was the primary guy writing Notebook columns on the Fish, making me, in effect, BP's reporter on the Florida beat. My first instinct, as always, is to turn over an opportunity like this to someone more qualified. This is a risk when you run with the guys at BP, because there's always someone more qualified: Brother Joe does lots of radio and television appearances, Neil DeMause knows more about ballparks and finance, and Dayn Perry and Rany Jazayerli know more about the team's prospects. I could go on and on.

But then again, I thought to myself, this guy read the website, and the things we write there. He picked me, so me he gets.

So, a few weeks later, I found myself in a broom-closet-sized room at the offices for Canadian Broadcast Radio, which also contains the New York Bureau of NPR's Marketplace. In the room with me was a computer terminal, hooked up to some headphones and a big honkin' microphone. In California, Ethan, the correspondent who'd contacted me, was on the other end of a similar (but in my mind, better-looking) setup.

I don't know why the high sound quality of my cross-country studio hookup surprised me. This was, after all, a professional radio outfit. I guess my idea of talk radio comes from the generally lousy reception of WFAN I used to get in my old apartment. As Ethan and I talked prior to getting started, my voice boomed over the headphones--and for once, I wasn't appalled. Usually, I hate my voice, to the extent that I wince whenever the answering machine kicks on while I'm at home. But with the high-quality feedback, I tried my best to file down the qualities in my voice that annoy me most, prior to answering any questions.

What followed was about 15 minutes of Q&A (with emphasis on the "A") on the Marlins, their ownership, their relocation chances, and their prospects for 2006 and beyond. Since we were on tape, Ethan asked few questions and each time basically just let me run my mouth to the point of exhaustion, before asking the next question. The upside was that I'd prepared for the interview, and had all sorts of facts at my disposal. I'd even gotten Jonah Keri to advance me a copy of his terrific essay for Baseball Between the Numbers, about the genius of previous Marlins owner Wayne Huizenga (and yes, I did manage to work the plug into an answer). The downside is, with that high-fidelity microphone, turning a page in studio sounds like you're ripping apart a piece of aluminum siding.

Still, it was a good talk, with only a few hiccups--asking a lawyer (okay, maybe just asking me) about the finer points of tax law is not good radio. After the interview, Ethan told me that he would be interviewing Marlins' president David Samson for the piece, and that I'd be alerted when the piece was to air. To be fair, I wasn't terribly dilligent, until I suddenly thought, earlier this week, "whatever happened to that interview?"

Turns out it aired three weeks back. Here's a link to the piece. The fifteen minutes I spent talking got condensed to about 15 seconds, little more than a sound bite in a short (circa 4 min) segment. But it's a fine beginning, and the next time someone asks, I'll be nowehere near as nervous.

No comments: