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Brian Lehrer in 2009
October 5, 1952 |
Manhattan, New York City, US
|Alma mater||State University of New York at Albany (B.A.)
Columbia University (M.P.H.)
Ohio State University (M.S.)
|Occupation||Journalist, talk show host|
Brian Lehrer (born October 5, 1952) is a radio talk show host on New York City's public radio station WNYC. His daily two-hour 2007 Peabody Award-winning program, The Brian Lehrer Show, features interviews with newsmakers and experts about current events and social issues. Lehrer was formerly an anchor and reporter for NBC Radio Networks, and has been in broadcast journalism for more than 20 years. Lehrer also hosts a weekly tech- and web-oriented television show, BrianLehrer.TV on CUNY TV.
Lehrer obtained B.A. degrees in Music and Mass Communications from the State University of New York at Albany. While a student there, he hosted a radio program on the college radio station WSUA which has since become WCDB Albany.
He holds a Master of Public Health degree from the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health and a master's degree in Journalism from Ohio State University. Lehrer resides in Inwood, Manhattan with his two sons.
The Brian Lehrer Show
Lehrer has been hosting his show, originally called On The Line, since its inception in 1989. The format is interviews with newsmakers, combined with listener phone calls. Newsmakers are local, national and international, often authors on book tours, or metropolitan area politicians, including both of New York's senators, and most congress, state and city representatives from the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. But sometimes guests are less-famous individuals affected by the news, like Brooklyn residents on the site of giant housing developments, or neighbors of noisy Manhattan night clubs. Frequent topics are housing, health care, transportation, education, and other government functions, the arts, the experience of living in New York and the surrounding area, and international affairs, such as the Iraq war or Israel/Palestinian conflict, particularly from a New York perspective. His programs often use The New York Times for leads and guests. He tries to maintain a balance between issues as they affect listeners, and "horse-race" pundit discussions of politics. It won a 2007 Peabody Award "for facilitating reasoned conversation about critical issues and opening it up to everyone within earshot."
Secrets for producing a talk show
In February 2009, Brian Lehrer Show Executive Producer Nuala McGovern, who was leaving the program, compiled a selection of the greatest moments on the program since she started in 2000, and gave "five secrets for producing a talk show:"
- "Accept that you're going to have to break a few eggs in the name of public service." Sometimes you have to ask that tough question "that may not be what the guest wants". For example, in 2003, Lehrer interviewed Iraqi foreign minister Adnan Pachachi, part of the first provisional government of Iraq. A caller from Iraq said that he would not recognize the Iraqi government because it was installed by the American government. Pachachi answered the question, but angrily responded, "I find it extraordinary that you allow people like that to use these airways." In another example, Lehrer asked Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "Why did you deny the state of Florida the right to recount votes in its own state?" This was appropriate, he said, because 75% of the New York vote went for Al Gore in the 2000 election.
- "Be ready to turn on a dime". For example, during the New York City blackout, the station's main power went out.
- Screen the call-ins carefully. For example, when a caller said that Senator Hillary Clinton was anti-military and required all the military officers in the White House to wear civilian clothes, not uniforms, McGovern saw that Senator Clinton herself was calling in to deny it.
- "Research" includes getting out and talking to people. "Taxi drivers are a font of information". If a subject provokes discussion, "it's probably going to work on the radio". For example, one successful subject is parenting kids in the City. One successful segment was about a mother who allowed her 9-year-old son to travel alone on the subway.
- "Know thy audience". Audience call-ins are an important resource for good programs. Successful call-ins were about first-time voters, how it is to live with HIV, how religion affects your politics, your environmental sins, losing your job. One listener suggested renaming "Citi Field" to "Debits Field".
CUNY TV show
Lehrer currently hosts a cable TV talk show called BrianLehrer.TV (formerly Brian Lehrer Live) on CUNY TV (channel 75 on New York City cable systems). In 2009 the show was nominated for a regional Emmy award (New York Emmy Awards).
Lehrer's op-ed pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Sun, Newsday, The New York Daily News, and on Slate.com. His WNYC commentaries are also distributed globally on the NPR.org website.
Lehrer was a questioner in the WABC-TV New York City Mayoral Debates in 1997, 2001, and 2005. He has appeared on television as a commentator on New York 1, WNET Channel 13, and CNNfn, and hosted public affairs shows on WNYC-TV and WNET from 1990-1998.
Lehrer was the recipient of the Associated Press New York Broadcasters "Best Interview" Award in 2000 for an interview with a rape survivor, and in 2001 for his role as moderator on NYC radio of the only mayoral primary debate between Michael Bloomberg and Herman Badillo. During his tenure as host of "NPR's On The Media," the national program was named "Best Weekly Show" by the Public Radio News Directors in 1999.
Lehrer is also an award-winning author and documentary producer. He was awarded the New York Press Club's "Heart of New York Award" for his documentary on new immigrants Immigrant New York: The Last 20 Years, and a New York Public Library "Best Books For The Teenaged" award for The Korean Americans.
He currently moderates several major public forums, including The Nation vs. The Economist series and the Harper's Forum series, and has moderated or hosted major events for the American Museum of Natural History and Westinghouse Science Foundation, among others.
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