Edwards still starts his day with `Morning'

Former NPR host tunes in to old show but has a new one

August 25, 2005|By Karen Ravn | Karen Ravn,KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

MONTEREY, Calif. - Does the jilted former host of National Public Radio's Morning Edition ever listen to the show anymore?

What a silly question.

"Every morning," Bob Edwards said in a recent telephone interview. "Where else am I going to get my news?"

And there it was - the famous voice, as thick and smooth as a chocolate milkshake.

After 25 years, NPR switched that voice off in spring 2004. Now Edwards' career is up in the air, you might say, but in a good way - on XM Satellite Radio.

You can still hear Edwards five mornings a week on his own hourlong show if you subscribe to XM, which offers more than 150 channels, including the public radio station that carries Edwards. XM Radio is commercial free and costs $12.95 a month.

For a smaller price, you can get the cyber version.

"I run continuously online," Edwards said. "Every hour on the hour for 24 hours."

Edwards' new show isn't a news show: "It's just me talking to interesting people about interesting things."

And sometimes he takes a break from interviewing others one-on-one and talks to the audience one-on-maybe-a-million. (When Edwards hosted Morning Edition it was the top-rated morning radio program in the country, with 13 million listeners a week. Audiences on XM are considerably smaller, but growing.)

In one of his more personal segments, Edwards told his audience about his never-boring border collie, Sam, another good thing - along with his new show - that has come into his life after parting company with Morning Edition.

The notion of talking about Sam may have been planted years ago on the many Friday Morning Editions that Edwards shared with his old friend Red Barber. "I learned a lot of broadcasting from Red," Edwards said, "from his humor and engagement with the audience. ... And like everyone else, I got interested in what was growing in his garden and what his cat was up to."

Overall, Edwards' memories of his old job are good, and he's proud of what he accomplished there. "There are days on Morning Edition I'm never going to forget," he said.

But he hasn't forgotten how it ended, either. "They didn't want me to host a daily program on the air anymore, and that's what I do."

For their part, NPR officials hold Edwards responsible for some of the hard feelings that developed between the two sides.

In his recent book, Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism, Edwards describes how Murrow became expendable to CBS when his principles clashed with management.

Does he see any similarity between Murrow's conflict with management and his own? Not at all. Murrow wanted to do "bold, aggressive journalism," Edwards said, but his CBS bosses wouldn't let him because it might upset the sponsors.

"I wasn't denied any opportunity to do bold journalism," Edwards said. "They just didn't want me doing a daily program."

But he does see similarities between Murrow's situation and the general state of journalism on commercial stations.

"Commercial radio is not a valid news media anymore," he said. "NPR has stepped in to fill the vacuum. It's a vital resource that deserves our support."

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