When a guest isn’t ready to go live on-air

I’ll be the first to say that producing radio should never be mistaken for performing surgery. A life isn’t at stake. That being said, there are many nerve-wracking moments that listeners are never aware of. This morning we had one of them.

If you look at the picture below, taken this morning, I look pretty calm. I wasn’t. It was taken at approximately 11:06, as we were trying to connect with the guest scheduled to go on air at approximately 11:06, Bloomberg reporter Roben Farzad. He was supposed to be in a studio in New York, and we were having trouble connecting to that studio.

Plus, he wasn’t even seated.

Associate Producer Kryssy Pease is frantically trying to get in touch with Bloomberg to find out where he is. Denny Hansen, an MPR engineer, is trying to connect us to the Bloomberg studio.

At this point, I’m trying to figure out what to do next. To buy some time, we had taken two extra minutes of the NPR newscast. (Here’s an inside tip for listeners: If the NPR newscast seems longer than normal, that means we don’t have our guest). I also asked Tom Weber to throw a few more stories into his newscast. And I had Meggan Ellingboe, our assistant producer, get the guests scheduled for 11:15 on the line.

At 11:08, we hear Roben get seated, and say hello to us in the control room. Hooray! we have our guest. I let Kerri Miller know he’s ready.

Twenty seconds later we hear from Roben, “I can’t hear anything.”

Oh no! we don’t have our guest!

I let Kerri know. Tom continues to read the news. Erik Stromstad, the board operator, is trying to fix the technical issues and play pieces of sound for the newscast. I notice his hands are shaking. At 11:08:45, just as Tom is wrapping up, we find out Roben can hear us, and is ready to go. Ten seconds later, Kerri introduces the guest, we hear him speak, and we breathe a sigh of relief.

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Voila. The magic of radio. (That’s Kryssy Pease looked freaked out behind me)

Chris Dall, senior producer