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1 December 2000

Joe Garner on
We Interrupt This Broadcast



Interviewed by John Hoh

Q: What motivated you to do this book?

A: Radio has been a life-long passion of mine. I spent virtually all of my career in radio, starting with Macomb, Illinois, where I grew up. I was a page at CBSí Television City working for Dick Clark. In 1986 I worked for Westwood One until 1997.

Thinking ahead to the next century, I wanted to do a time capsule of events. The idea really took shape when I heard the reading of the verdict in the O. J. Simpson trial. Fortunately, Sourcebooks understood the concept of a living time capsule.

Q: Was it difficult to select the events you selected?

A: Not really. My selection criteria were:

--A benchmark in our lives,

--What we remember in our lives,

--Did each broadcast rise to that level,

--Finally, did the event interrupt a broadcast.

These criteria made the process much easier.

Another factor that made the process easier is that not much of the early broadcasts was actually archived.

I also included items such as the erroneous report of VJ Day to show the immediacy of the media, which is not new. This reporter used a technique called "Rip and Read," which simply means he ripped the printout from the wire services and read it on the air. Too late he realizes that a report was "called back" by the wire.

I also included the RFK assassination, where the reporter shouts, "The gunís pointed at me!" and Bob Brill, who was mugged reporting the Rodney King riots. News reporting is a more dangerous business than anyone imagines.

Q: How did you get Bill Kurtis to narrate the CD?

A: In the Spring of 1998, I was going through archival records and had A&E on. I heard Billís voice and knew right away it was the voice of We Interrupt This Broadcast. I wrote a letter to Bill. It turns out, he was a fan of a set of records called Hear it Now, which was narrated by Edward Murrow and produced by Fred Friendly of CBS. Bill called and accepted as soon as he got the letter.

Q: And Walter Cronkite?

A: I wanted someone with experience in broadcast journalism who had credibility. Mr. Cronkite was at the top of the list and also accepted as soon as he received my letter.

Q: At what point did you decide to include the actual recordings?

A: Right from day one I decided the compilation of stories from radio and TV to have actual reports.

Q: Any other projects that we might expect?

Q: Yes. And the Crowd Goes Wild has just been released by Sourcebooks. This is a compilation with CD of the 50 greatest sports moments in broadcast history.

Joe Garner has also written And The Fans Roared, also a sports broadcast compendium published by SourceBooks.

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