Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Radio Day
I made two appearances on New York-area public affairs radio shows today talking about "Schools That Work," the career and technical education I authored for the Center for an Urban Future that came out last month. This morning I did a 15-minute segment on The Brian Lehrer Show, which airs on WNYC; in the afternoon I spent about a half-hour on Talkback, a show hosted by Hugh Hamilton on WBAI. Conveniently, their offices are on the 10th floor of the building in which CUF is located on the 20th. The links above are to the shows. On the latter, I should be about a half-hour in.

i've done a lot of radio interviews over the last five years or so, since the policy reports I write began to get some attention, but I found myself surprisingly nervous sitting down with Lehrer. I was gripping the table and very worried that I'd have to use the COUGH button (or that I'd catch my throat and would fail to use it). Part of it probably was that I'd been worried before I got to the studio because I gave away all my copies of the report and couldn't review it--which you think wouldn't be necessary after writing the damn thing for a year, going through countless drafts, and getting pretty deeply involved in this world of education that I hadn't much grappled with previously. And in a sense you'd be right; this was probably as much about a security blanket as anything else. I re-wrote my talking points on the subway heading there, and felt ready to go. But Lehrer moves so fast, and is so deft at going back and forth between multiple guests--I was on with a principal at one of the schools I profiled in the report, who joined by phone--that my nerves quickly gave way to mild frustration at having so little time to get to all the points I wanted to hit. (Well, that and his forgetting to give the URL where people could find the report.) On the whole I was pretty happy with how it went.

The Hamilton show didn't feel quite as good, though I don't think it was terrible either. I've been on with him a few times in the past, always (I think) previously by phone. The atmosphere in WBAI is quite different from WNYC--more like a college radio station, and if anything probably less formal than the overly professionalized WBRU-FM I remember from Brown. (I did a show at the AM station, and was program manager; people either showed up, or didn't.) The longer segment reflects that more relaxed atmosphere, and Hamilton asks more open-ended questions. These probably don't play to my strengths; I tend to give too-long answers, and it sounds like I'm thinking about it--which is good in-person, but bad on the radio, where it can come across as stumped silence. He also crossed me up a little about halfway through the segment, asking me if I myself attended a career and technical education high school. I didn't, and we moved on.

As he was walking me out afterward, Hugh apologized for the question. He'd been listening to the Lehrer segment in the morning "while ironing my shirt," and what he heard was John Widlund, the principal who was on with me, talking about how he'd gone to a vocational high school.

What's gratifying about this press attention--aside from the obvious ego-feeding stuff, which I won't deny--is that people really care about it. The calls we got on both shows, and the comments online at the first link above, make this very clear. After spending eight years mostly writing about workforce development, an important but not particularly easy-to-explain field of policy, I'm not used to having a public much interested in my work. I like it; it's a great motivator. And this particular question of how to balance work/career preparation (long- or short-term, for adults or youth) and education feels like something I'll be spending a lot more time on over the next few years.

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