What Do You Broadcast When There's Nothing to Say?

Friday, April 19, 2013


Brian Lehrer (Marco Antonio/WNYC)

After the initial surge of news on Monday, we hit a news lull, so many outlets filled their air with recycled video, speculation, sorrow on the scene, pundits, consultants and blather. We asked the best call-in host we know, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer, what you're supposed to say on-air when there isn't new information but people still want to tune in. 


Brian Lehrer

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [6]

Ramesh from NY

I agree with npr listener Roland's view. If I detach for a while and see, it seems there is a lot of dramatization going on. First politicians and media created a charged environment for themselves, and then they participated in an empathy race. In these circumstances, I think it is common sense to underplay emotions but religious leaders, politicians and media bask under sentimentality.

Apr. 23 2013 09:55 PM
Karen from New Jersey

The only network coverage we saw on television was from ABC. I can recall only as far back as the movie theater shooting in Colorado the dramatic "flair" given to the coverage ... special banners (Tragedy in ...), solemn music and Diane Sawyer's impassioned reading of the news. This technique was used during the coverage in Connecticut and now in Boston. It is, as a listener said today, "horror mongering." I suppose I need straighter coverage ... 'just the facts, ma'am' ... to give me the opportunity to think and feel for myself. Reading is best, listening worse and watching while listening a nightmare.

Apr. 21 2013 07:20 PM
Keith Otis Edwards from Detroit

Even worse than the nonsense of the talking heads was the deliberate misinformation for a political purpose. NPR reported that the Tsarnaev brothers were armed with "military-style assault weapons."

This is in keeping with the current NPR propaganda that the populace is suddenly threatened by weapons which heretofore have been available strictly to the military but can now be purchased at any gun shop.

I have read many accounts during the entire week, and I have yet to see any report of what specific arms the Tsarnaev brothers used. Yet NPR will not pass on an opportunity to further inflame their listeners about "military-style assault weapons."

Apr. 21 2013 12:26 AM
Stephen Goldstein from Arlington, Va.

Working in the news business since high school, I shared air time with Brian Lehrer 40 years ago when we were broadcasting on student radio.

Listening to Brian's comments with Brooke Gladstone about the Boston bombings, I agree with his measured and relevant approach: Allow the audience to share their thoughts and reactions and update the audience when something is new.

On September 11, 2001, I was glued to the radio news bulletins from 8 am until 10:30 am, especially because my brother was working in the Pentagon and the plane came to a stop below his office window. Fortunately for him, he was not in the building when the plane hit, but he mourns the deaths there and at the World Trade Center and Shanksville, Pa.

At 10:30 am, The Washington Times called and asked me to come in to work on the copy desk, which I had done since 1998 — but on Saturday nights, not Tuesdays. I readily agreed and worked for 12½ hours, for three reasons: I was doing something productive, participating in the news coverage rather than just listening to it on radio; I was off the roads before traffic became tangled; and I could find out what was going on because I was in the newsroom.

We had filled the newsroom with staff, and I still appreciate how well we worked together under the pressure of the day — it focused us on the mission. Thankfully, I've been in similar high-pressure deadline situations at other publications, and the staff has pulled together to get the job done.

The publications where I have worked since 2006 focus on trucking and freight transportation, so we don't cover much else — unless there are a transportation or trucking aspects: the drought in the Midwest, for example, or when severe weather affects trucking deliveries.

The general news media and other news media cover the other news, and we can follow it.

Apr. 21 2013 12:20 AM
Eric Goebelbecker from Maywood, NJ

Brian Lehrer found it impossible to say nothing? Wow!

In other news, water is wet, the sky is up, and talk radio is a complete waste of time.

Apr. 20 2013 03:01 PM
Judy Stadt from Spring Valley, NY

Recycled video, speculation, sorrow on the scene, blather is ALL that I hear on a daily basis and turn off the radio in disgust. There are MANY other things to talk about that are about the TOPIC and not about the SPECIFIC event that NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT YET!!! Talk about the subject of violence on related media ... television, movies, on the news, in the newspapers, video games and on and on and on. That might even be productive.

Apr. 20 2013 01:45 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.