I work for The New York Times. The people who read the paper and the people who work here know a lot about a lot of things, but there’s a lot of stuff we don’t know, too. What have you learned from your audience that you didn’t know as much about before?
It’s been profound. I used to be a newspaper columnist. Before that, a reporter. And most of my newspaper days were before social media. So you really did not have a relationship with the audience. In the early years, you may have gotten a letter. In the later years, you may have gotten an email. If you got an angry phone call, you really didn’t know what people were thinking, and what people really believed in.
But on a radio show, you do.
I am always going to be the advocate for the caller. I don’t mean to sound like I run a Walmart, but the customer is always right. And the customers in this case are mostly people who call in. That doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with them. But 20 years ago, I would say, “You’re crazy, you’re a moron.” I have toned that down.
And Covid changed me in a way that I didn’t think was possible. I became a little softer around the edges, believing that a lot of people are suffering. A lot of people are going through things that have nothing to do with what we’re talking about. And I am a little more empathetic to them as a result.
But your audience is in a knowledge bubble too, right? And they might not want to hear that Ohio State is good or that Notre Dame might deserve a spot in the College Football Playoff. How do you break them out of their own bubbles?
Tell the truth. I suggested several years ago that Ohio State should get in over Georgia to the C.F.P., and I received a lot of blowback. You can’t let your audience dictate or curtail you from speaking honestly and objectively.
How have you and the show changed over the years?
As a host of a show that’s heard on a national network — radio and television — I feel like I have to be open-minded. I have to be able to say, whether it pains me or not, that Ohio State is really good, or Notre Dame deserves to be in the playoffs, or Michigan.