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A Radio Legend

Kentucky Book Fair
to feature newsman Edwards

Former NPR radio commentator
to speak at 30th annual even
t in Frankfort, Ky.

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

November 2011Edition Cover

November 2011
Edition Cover

(November 2011) – Bob Edwards has long been a radio icon to many in the industry. He is most proud of his accomplishments with National Public Radio and the affect it has had on millions of listeners.
For four decades, Edwards has made radio his career, interviewing more than 30,000 people and attracting thousands of devoted fans.
“I don’t know how to do anything else,” Edwards said during an October telephone interview.
Edwards is from Louisville, Ky., and began his career in radio as a college student at the University of Louisville. He received his first big break in the business when he got the job of cuing the commercial break for WHEL (now WNDA-AM) in New Albany, Ind. At this job, he worked the board as a dee-jay, covered the news, sold ads and even fixed the plumbing.
“Radio was all I ever wanted to do,” said Edwards. “I was fascinated by radio. When I was growing up, we had a big Zenith in the living room. I remember all the voices that came out of it. I just wanted to be one of those voices.”
For Edwards, “Radio was still a very big deal when I was a kid. Television was still in its infancy. There was Milton Berle, and not much else. Later, television became huge, with three major networks.”

Kentucky Book Fair Logo

Kentucky Book Fair
Saturday, Nov. 12,
at Frankfort Convention
Center – Special Events

Friday, Nov. 11
• Special Signing Event: Douglas Boyd, author of “Crawfish Bottom,” will provide a brief presentation and sign copies of his new book at the Orlando Brown House from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. as a precursor to the Kentucky Book Fair and part of Downtown Frankfort’s Candlelight Tour.
• Children’s Day: The Kentucky Book Fair will hold its first Children’s Day from 9.a.m. to 2 p.m. More than 35 children and Young Adult authors are scheduled to attend, including George Ella Lyon, Mary Wayne Adams, Marcia Thornton Jones, Leigh Anne Florence, Alison Hart, Loretta Ellsworth and Kristin Tubb. Admission is free.
Saturday, Nov. 12
• Banned and Challenged Books Exhibit: St. Catharine College will present selections from the American Library Association’s List of Top 100 Banned and Challenged Books (2000-2009) during the Kentucky Book Fair at the Frankfort Convention Center. The morning session starts at 11 a.m. and the afternoon session starts at 1 p.m. Visit the St. Catherine College table at the Book Fair for location information.
• Limited Signing Times: Frank Bill will be signing after his noon reading. Arjia Rinpoche will be signing after his 1 p.m. reading.
• Lunch With Bob Edwards: Meet and greet radio journalist Bob Edwards at noon at a specially ticketed event at the Capital Plaza Hotel hosted by the Kentucky Book Fair. Francis Nash, of WUGO and WGOH radio stations, will interview Edwards about his life and new book, “The Voice in the Box.” Tickets are $27 and available at kybookfair@ky.gov or online at www.kybookfair.com.

Kentucky Book Fair Readings
Upper Arena
• 10 a.m.:
Thomas Freese
• 11 a.m.: Kevin McQueen
• Noon: Frank Bill
• 1 p.m.: Arjia Rinpoche
• 2 p.m.: Ellyn Bache
• 3 p.m.: Peggy DeKay
Upper Arena Area B
• 10 a.m.: Richard Taylor
• 11 a.m.: Frederick Smock
• Noon: Leah Stewart
• 1 p.m.: Marianne Walker
• 2 p.m. Stephen Zimmer
• 3 p.m.: Jan Sparkman

Book Fair Symposiums
At the Frankfort Convention Center
• 9:15 a.m.:
Melissa McEuen (sponsored by Transylvania University. “Making War-Making Women”
• 10:15 a.m.: Liz Curtise Higgs, “Mine is the Night”
• 11:30 a.m.: Meadowlark Lemon, “Trust Your Next Shot”
• 12:30 p.m.: Kim Edwards, “The Lake of Dreams”
• 1:45 p.m.: Robert Morgan, “Lions of the West”
• 2:45 p.m.: Vitao “Babe Parilli & Dick Burdette, “Kentucky Babe - The Babe Parilli Story”
• 3:45 p.m.: David King, “Death in the City of Light”

All presentations are free and open to the public
Special Panel Discussion
At the Old State Capital House Chamber
• Noon:
The Kentucky Book Fair and the Kentucky Historical Society Present: “The Civil War: After 150 years, Why Are We Still Fascinated?”
Moderator: Dr. James Klotter, State Historian of Ky.
Panelists: Charles Bracelen Flood, Brian D. McKnight, James A. Ramage, Andrea Watkins, Donald A. Clark
• Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky., area authors participating: Brad Asher, Rick Bell, Winfrey Blackburn, Scott Gill, John Boel, Rodney Daugherty, Peggy DeKay, Kadie Engstrom, Thomas Freese, Liz Curtis Higgs, Blaine Hudson, Ken Clay, Mervin Aubespin, David Inman, Nana Lampton, Will Lavender, James Markert, Lori A. Moore, Bill Noel, Mary O’Dell, Lisa Pisterman, Sharon Receveur, Tavia Cathcart, Nancy Russman, Fred Smock, and Sheri L. Wright.
• Kentucky Book Fair Information: Admission is free and open to the public. Limited seating is available. Visit www.kybookfair.org or contact Connie Crowe at kybookfair@ky.gov.

But Edwards decided to devote his life to radio and to accomplish the same thing through radio that journalists were doing on the small screen everyday. During his job at WHEL, Edwards was drafted and spent a year in Seoul, Korea, with the American Forces Korea Network, where he produced and anchored news shows for American troops.
This prepared Edwards for the most important opportunity of his career. In February 1974 he joined a young National Public Radio broadcast. His first job was as associate producer for the news, making him NPR’s only newscaster. In six-months time, he became co-host of NPR’s flagship evening news program, “All Things Considered.”
Producers had decided to put together a morning program and hired a staff to produce a pilot program, said Edwards. “It was generally agreed by all that the broadcast was awful and everyone was fired.”
But “All Things Considered” was just a stepping-stone for Edwards. It gave him the chance to be a driving force in launching Morning Edition in 1979. This program beat out all other public radio programs and boasted more listeners than morning network television programs had viewers.
Edwards will be returning home to Kentucky to appear at the 30th annual Kentucky Book Fair from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Frankfort (Ky.) Convention Center. The Kentucky Book Fair will be playing host to a lunch with Edwards at noon at the Capital Plaza Hotel. Edwards will be interviewed by Francis Nash of WGOH-WUGO radio about his book, “A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio.”
Edwards said he penned the book because “I wanted to tell my story.” It covers some of his most memorable interviews from the time he worked in broadcasting in the U.S. Army to graduate school in Washington, D.C., to his long employment with NPR.
“It’s about my life, but also a history of the last 43 years in journalism, radio in particular.”
The memoir chronicles an insider’s account of the world of American media and its transformation through 40 years of evolving public journalism. In the beginning of radio broadcasting, “even radio did the news,” he said.
But in the 1980s, many changes began to take place with the advent of cable television. “Networks closed a lot of overseas bureaus,” he said. Modern technology such as satellites and computers encouraged public radio to become what he termed “a great news source.”
Edwards said that he has attended the Kentucky Book Fair in the past. “It is a great event; very well done.” He said he is looking forward to returning to his home state and the book fair to “re-connect with Kentucky authors.”
The Kentucky Book Fair has grown tremendously over the years since it began in 1981, said Connie Crowe, event spokesperson.
At the time, “It wasn’t a common occurrence for authors to do signings in smaller towns, and even with the advent of book store signings in the larger cities, you still didn’t see a lot of this locally.”
Crowe said it was probably the first time that a number of authors had been brought together to sign books for their buying public, at least for the central part of the state. “Kentucky is a literary state despite the misconceptions that abound.”
Authors such as Edwards “give us credence and a sense of importance in that the Kentucky Book Fair brings quality writers to the table,” said Crowe. The book fair gives the reading public more of a one-on-one opportunity with the authors, she added.

Trust Your Nest Shot book cover

Photos provided

Authors Meadowlark
Lemon of the Harlem Globetrotters basketball
team and Louisville’s Liz Curtis Higgs also will
appear as featured
guests at the Book Fair.

Having survived not quite as long as Edwards’ media career, but nevertheless for 30 years in the book publishing industry, the book fair has given organizers and the state “a reputation for delivering the goods,” said Crowe. “The way we treat our authors – with such love and respect – contributes to our reputation.”
Crowe says many people “still enjoy the tangible tactile experience of buying a physical book and having that interaction with the author.”
This compares to what Edwards said was the best part of his job in broadcasting: interaction in the form of interviews with so many diverse people. “Meeting the people, learning from them and sharing what he has learned” has been the highlight of his career, he said.
One of his most memorable interviews was with Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest who worked with Latino gangs in East Los Angeles. Boyle was instrumental in working with gang members and trying to help them have a good life.
“He was so good at telling stories of who he had helped save from gang life and who is now gone,” said Edwards of Boyle. “That’s what radio is – telling stories.”

Edwards and Randy Newman

Photos from Bob Edwards’ book provided by publisher

Edwards interviewed Randy Newman
on March 30, 2007, before a live audience
at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle
to benefit public radio station KPLU.

Edwards counts his greatest accomplishment as “having been part of a very large group that helped build NPR, and having established it as a great source for programming and journalism.”
Edwards was replaced in 2004 as host of NPR’s “Morning Edition” after nearly 25 years with the program. He was inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame the same year. Edwards now hosts “The Bob Edwards Show” on Sirius XM Radio and lives in Arlington, Va.

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