The Interview

December 20, 2009

By: Laura Franzini

“In my Journalism 101 class at Emerson College in Boston, we first-year journalism students were given a semester-long challenge. For 4 months, we must follow a local reporter—read the reporter’s stories, listen to the reporter’s radio program, or watch the reporter’s television show. At the end of the semester, we will interview our chosen reporter one-on-one.”

That is an excerpt from my first blog post, written almost two months ago. It’s now the end of the semester and I have completed that challenge.

This past Thursday, I had the pleasure of going to the WBUR station at Boston University and interviewing Robin Young, host of WBUR’s Here & Now. The experience was beyond what I had expected: instead of just sitting down to ask and answer questions over a sandwich, the staff at Here & Now, especially Robin and managing editor Chris Ballman, gave me a full-scale immersion into the building, the creation of the program, and the show itself.

As I sat with Robin in recording studio 2C, asking questions between live promos and tags, one question prompted a discussion about how Here & Now is able to book interviews for breaking news so quickly, sometimes just hours after an event has occurred.

Robin told me that, right after 9/11, Public Radio International and Here & Now went out and began to forge relationships with many news organizations, including the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor. Because of these relationships, Robin said, when Here & Now calls, they’ll get an interview. “We earned it,” Robin said. The work they did to secure these relationships now means that there’s “nothing [they] can’t cover.”

Back in the WBUR lunchroom, surrounded by about twenty staffers answering phone calls for pledges, Robin and I did eat sandwiches and continued the interview. I asked her what seems to have become the “million-dollar” question in journalism: “What are your thoughts about the ‘future of journalism’?”

Though optimistic in terms of Here & Now and public radio, whose numbers are going up, Robin’s main concern about journalism’s future seems to be the challenge of finding some way to present the news without taking away the “beauty and democracy” of the Internet. She said that, without editors making decisions about what was news and what wasn’t news, the public is no longer being “guided.”

She is particularly saddened by the tendency of many news organizations—print, television, and radio—to choose “tabloid” news over hard news, such as Glenn Beck’s recent conflict of interest concerning gold investments. “That’s not news,” Robin said, “This sort of thing was unheard of before. There has got to be a way that makes some requirements about what is truth without tampering down” the Internet.

Here & Now has already seemed to have found a way to utilize the capabilities of the Internet to enhance their broadcast. Photos, videos, and podcasts fill up the show’s website, and there is even a link to follow Here & Now on Twitter. Robin said the staff is always thinking of how to respond to new technology and thinking of what else they can do to keep up with the ever-changing nature of online media.

But with ratings rivaling many television news broadcasts, Here & Now and public radio seem to be well adapted to the journalism revolution.