‘The Pub’ #98: Interviewing Jesse Thorn about interviewing interviewers about interviewing

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Nick Liao/Maximum Fun

Thorn and one of his guests on "The Turnaround," Larry King.

Jesse Thorn is an accomplished guy — he’s the host of NPR’s Bullseye and proprietor of the Maximum Fun podcast network. And yet, he feels a little insecure about having never attended journalism school.

So this summer, Thorn organized his own journalism academy of sorts and let everyone else listen in. He’s just completed the 15-episode run of his podcast miniseries The Turnaround, a show co-presented with Columbia Journalism Review in which Thorn interviews various legendary interviewers about interviewing, including such public media luminaries as Terry Gross, Brooke Gladstone, Audie Cornish, Ray Suarez, Anna Sale and Ira Glass.

“My goal was to learn tips and tricks,” Thorn told me on The Pub. “What I learned was that you cannot be anything other than yourself.”

On this week’s episode, Thorn reflects on what he got out of interviewing his interviewing heroes. Plus, the question of what public media should become in the next 50 years leads me down a reporting rabbit hole where I try to quantify just how much money public broadcasting stations are worth. (It turns out it’s way less than I thought.)

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at adam@current.org or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at mike@current.org; and you can contact Current generally at news@current.org or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to adam@current.org either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

  • Very interesting.

  • Totally agree with Adam that the planned, “manicured” style of interviewing is incredibly boring. “Suffocating” is the word he used. Yep. Has never been my style, which is also why WATC and I weren’t a good fit, because everything at NPR is scripted to within an inch of its life. There’s very little room for spontaneity.