Behind every great host

There are two days left now before Gary Eichten calls it a career, and although I’ve written at least two tribute pieces to the man in the last year, I feel compelled to join the (highly appropriate) media tributes to the long-time Midday host. Instead, I’m going to pay tribute to him in a way only Eichten would appreciate — throwing the spotlight on his colleague who can’t stand the spotlight.

One of the pitfalls of radio is the audience only knows the existence of the voices, not the considerable infrastructure behind the scenes. Sara Meyer is part of that infrastructure.

Meyer is the producer of Midday and every deserved tribute that Mr. Eichten is getting as he concludes his career, should live in the shadow cast by Meyer as well. For as larger-than-life a person as Eichten is to the audience, Sara Meyer is to this newsroom, too.

She, like Gary, is the model of professionalism and integrity. She, like Gary, is unflappable in the face of mishaps and breaking news. Every guest you’ve heard on Midday in the last several decades (she fled to Minnesota from her native Massachusetts in 1985 1975), you heard because Sara made the phone calls to potential guests who were smart enough not to say “no.”

There’s nothing easy about producing a two-hour talk show with multiple guests or live coverage at state political conventions, live broadcasts from the Capitol, or election nights that go into the next morning. The smoother it all sounds on the air, and the more it sounds like the host is doing it himself, the harder a producer is working. The reward is often only the tongue lashing from the would-be caller who couldn’t get on the air because he wanted to deliver a speech that had nothing to do with the topic being discussed.

Like Eichten, her passion is politics. She can tell you where most political districts are, and who lost the election in them 20 years ago.

She is not without blemishes; she maintained that Jim Rice belonged in the Baseball Hall of Fame until everyone got so tired of hearing about it, they put him in.

Gary will retire on Friday and the sun will come up by 11:06 on Monday morning. Sara is staying, as far we know. The plans for Midday will not be announced until after Gary’s final show on Friday, presumably because the management (appropriately) doesn’t want to distract from the spotlight on Gary.

Whoops.

  • Rich Dietman

    Bob,

    Thanks for calling attention to Sara’s integral role in making MIDDAY the ongoing success that it is. I had the good fortune to work with Sara a number of years ago and knew her to be the solid, steady and extremely knowledgable producer you describe. Someone you could count on to ask the right questions when planning the best coverage. So hats off to Gary and to Sara, and to the many others who continue to make MPR news and public affairs coverage the best.

  • Sarah Janecek

    Ditto on kudos for calling out Meyer’s work. She and Eichten have been the best team in local radio. Will be fun to learn what program(s) she’s going to produce next!

  • http://mpr.org louis

    As an escapee from WPR here in La Crosse, I’ve come to look forward to mid-day and will miss it with everyone else. Gary was great, however I hope the “new” show will be more “live’ and less programing from other sources that don’t allow for listeners to comment. Thanks Gary and good luck, Louis

  • Chloe Cathcart

    It is nice to see Sara credited as she should be. Gary is great and will be missed. I can only hope that Sara has much more give the MPR product.

  • gary eichten

    The Lady is Queen of Radio. A great producer, a great friend. Thanks, Sara.

  • Jeff Conrod

    Three cheers to Sara from me, too! It was a joy to work with her on election night once. I was behind the board in A-Control (in the old building) and she was behind me at the producers desk. We had multiple audio feeds playing out of the cue speakers of the reel-to-reel decks to our left, at least two TVs, and multiple reporters calling in from the field. Eichten and Wurzer were hosts. Sara knew what was going on in all places at all times. Gary and Kathy sounded so smooth because Sara guided everyone so well. It was fantastic to be a part of that. I remember that night every first-Tuesday in November.

    Thanks, Sara!

  • Rob Hebzynski

    Well done, Mr. Collins. Sara is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar!

  • Marilyn Cathcart

    Sara is an absolute professional: intelligent, capable, discreet and widely-read. Every time I hear Midday, I think of the immense amount of creativity, judgment and just plain hard work that goes into identifying and securing guests. Thank you so much, Sara. And thank you, Bob Collins, for recognizing Sara’s contributions and giving her a shout-out. I certainly hope MPR’s future plans contain room for intelligent, long-form journalism of the type that Sara and Gary Eichten embody.

  • Mike Pengra

    Thanks for posting this, Bob. Unflappable. Solid. Intelligent. Creative. Sara Meyer is the best in the business.

  • Curtis Gilbert

    One thing every assistant producer who’s worked with them will tell you is that Sara and Gary can read each other’s minds. The same show idea will occur to both of them simultaneously. They can communicate without speaking. It comes from having equally keen news judgment and a shared vision of what the audience needs to hear. In three years on the show, I never saw them fight. In fact, I can’t recall a time when they even disagreed. Gary and Sara are the best team at MPR. It was a pleasure to work with them, and it’s hard to imagine Midday without them!

  • kay smith

    A couple years ago, I was afraid Katherine Lanpher’s replacement was not going to be as good as she was. Wrong–Kerri Miller is great. I’m hoping Gary’s replacement will go the same way–and am glad to hear Sara will stay on.

  • Amy Hyatt-Blat

    Well done, Sara. Well said, Bob.

  • http://www.lorenomoto.com/ Loren Omoto

    Sara is a true gem. Unflappable, unsurpassable and (until now) mostly unsung. Good luck to her, and to Gary…whatever his next act may be.

  • Charles Cole

    Thank you Sara. These accolades are well deserved.

  • Dave Kenney

    Good people. Good people. And darn good journalists, too…

  • Tom Gjelten

    Gary Eichten is a legend, but my occasional guest appearances on his show have been entirely because of Sara Meyer. The irresistible one. Keep it up, Sara.