I Don't Know: The Shocking Confession Of An Annoying Know-It-All
This Week's 'The Letter' From All Access News-Talk-Sports by Perry Michael Simon
February 11, 2011 at 6:16 AM (PT)
There are no more powerful words in the English language than these:
"I don't know."
Okay, there are a few pretty powerful words that you can't say on the radio, but other than those, nothing is as simple and powerful as "I don't know." It's the ultimate answer. There's no counter to it. You say "I don't know," and that's all you need.
"Who ate all the Mallomars?" "I don't know."
"Who do you think is gonna win the Super Bowl?" "I don't know."
"Who embezzled all the money, and to which account were the funds diverted?" "I don't know."
What's anyone gonna do about it? If you don't know, you don't know.
For the last couple of weeks, we've been witnessing a massive international story in Egypt. I've heard hosts and experts mulling what to make of it, and I've been thinking about what I would be doing with it if, instead of heckling from the sidelines, I was still programming or hosting at a talk station. And after careful consideration, I came up with an answer:
I don't know.
There, I admit it.
Let me clarify that. (There's still, like, half a column left to fill) Of course, you have to cover it as news. It's definitely the lead international news item. But it comes with a couple of big problems: It's a topic most, if not all, hosts haven't been closely following until now (not that you can blame them), and it's hard to tell whether a talk radio listener -- as opposed to a news listener -- wants to hear discussions about it when a) it's pretty clear that nobody really knows for sure what's going on, and b) it's unclear what this means for the listeners, if anything.
It's not like you can't or shouldn't be talking about Egypt, of course. There have been elements that lend themselves to talk radio, like turning off Internet access or the potential impact of what's happening in Egypt and Tunisia on the world economy and on relations between the West and Middle East. The trick is to show how this situation impacts on listeners' everyday lives. That part's not obvious yet; in the meantime, most of the story involves fluid breaking news, with little pause to allow for individual topics to form. It's more of a "look at that!" situation, lending itself to watching events fold on TV or the Internet more than talk radio discussion. And it's harder to form a talk radio caller-style opinion on a story like that than it is to call in and rant on other "look at that!"-type stories, like, say, Lindsay Lohan. (No, Lindsay Lohan isn't as important as Egypt. But -- and this is not an endorsement or suggestion -- I bet she'd generate more calls) Meanwhile, there are plenty of local and national stories with more obvious individual impact on listeners; you can't ignore them, either.
And so I've been listening to talk radio on Egypt and watching the coverage and wondering how I'd approach it and how much time I'd devote to it, knowing that the TV coverage has a sizeable portion of the audience riveted and that people ARE interested in it. You know that I always have my opinion on that kind of thing. This time, I have to admit that I'm not sure whether I'd leave Egypt to the news reports, talk about it a little, or talk about it more than a little. I freely admit I don't know everything, and, in this case, what I DO know is... I don't know.
There are, of course, other things happening besides Egypt and Lindsay Lohan, and the place to find it all is Talk Topics, the show prep column at All Access News-Talk-Sports. What's in Talk Topics this week? The Hooters Girl-turned-gun totin' state legislator, how Mick Jagger's manhood keeps popping up (not literally!) in the news, rude candy, rude teachers, a spaghetti-fueled food fight, the controversy over putting black box crash recorders in cars, the saga of the Craigslist Congressman, and roughly a zillion "studies" proving all sorts of stuff real scientific-like, plus plenty of "real news" items about things like, well, Egypt, and the economy, and anything else you'd talk about on the radio, with suitably annoying comments, jokes, and links. While you're here, read a funny "10 Questions With..." newly-minted WPHT/Philadelphia morning host Chris Stigall, who undoubtedly has learned the joys of Wawa by now, and then peruse the rest of All Access with complete industry coverage updated all day, plus columns, charts, job listings, and more.
Want your social media All Access-sized, too? Follow Talk Topics at twitter.com/talktopics and Net News at twitter.com/allaccess. And get the All Access app for iPhone here or for Android here, both developed by jacAPPS. My other writing, unrelated to (and not to be blamed on) All Access, can be found at pmsimon.com, twitter.com/pmsimon, and Nerdist.com, where I'm writing about pop culture, tech stuff, and other geek-worthy topics.
It occurs to me that some might see the part above about three powerful words and think of another three-word phrase, and since Monday IS Valentine's Day, those WOULD be appropriate here as well. So, Fran, I love you (that's three words), Happy Valentine's Day (another three words), and this isn't your present (couldn't do that in three words). For the rest of you, have a great week, and remember, Tuesday is discounted Valentine's candy day; Just because it's late doesn't mean it isn't sweet, although it DOES mean you're cheap... er, thrifty.