Radiolab Host Jad Abumrad’s $500,000 Advice

Posted on September 22, 2011


I think anyone who can convince other people to give him $500,000 to work on a radio show has to be pretty smart.

So, while I don’t like to refer a whole lot to public radio in my blog, I think Jad Abumrad, the host of “Radiolab” which originates from WNYC in New York, is worth talking about.

Abumrad just received a half million dollars from the MacArthur Foundation in the form of a “Genius” grant for his work on “Radiolab.”

While he’s an incredibly creative guy he also has some very definite thoughts about the future of public radio which he shared in an interview with Andrew Phelps of the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Interestingly, if you take “public radio” out of his comments and replace it with “commercial radio” as I’ve done below you’ll see that his ideas are valuable and relevant to all broadcasters:

For example, describing a speech he was going to deliver at a [radio industry] convention, Abumrad says, “I’m going to be talking about how much it deeply sucks, emotionally sucks, to try and do something different, and then I’m going to try to urge the program directors who are in the room to run towards that feeling rather than run away from it.”

Asked what [commercial radio] needs to grow he says, ““It needs more joy. It needs more chaos. It needs more anarchy. And it needs more moods. The range of human experiences is covered and reported about on [commercial radio], but it’s not reflected in the tone, and it’s not reflected in the style.”

He also thinks [commercial radio] is also guilty of believing its own press, “We have gotten trapped in a certain sense of esteem, and we have a great deal of esteemed journalists and reporters and hosts. But equally important to esteem is currency and relevance, and we do need to think about that.”

Embrace change, reach your listeners through emotion and remember to be relevant instead of egotistical.

That’s got to be $500,000 worth of advice.