December 18, 2003

Rules For Calling In to a Radio Talk Show

I enjoy listening to NPR, particularly the call in show on KQED, Forum. There is, however, one thing I cannot stand, and that is moron callers who waste everyone's time. Therefore, I have put together a little checklist of guidelines in case you ever feel like calling in to a talk show.


  • Do not say "How are you?" While polite society dictates this in a regular telephone conversation, you are on the air and will only sound stupid.
  • Do not say "Long time listener, first time caller." Nobody cares.
  • Do turn off your radio. There is a delay between your call and when it airs, and if you listen to hear yourself live, you're going to leave huge gaps in your call.
  • Do keep your question or comment relevant to the topic at hand. Do not ask about the guest's opinion on campaign finance reform or the war against terror if the guest has, say, written a book on the extinct giant three-toed sloth.
  • Do rehearse what you're going to say. Practice saying it out loud, or write it down before you call. Don't assume you're going to get on the air and wing it. You'll sound like a dork.
  • Do not call from your cell phone while driving. This is a public safety hazard. If you absolutely have to call while driving, do not call if you're within fifty miles of a tunnel or mountain pass, and make sure you have 4 bars on your reception meter, or your phone will go out and everyone will hate you.
  • Calling into a radio program is not your opportunity to spout your personal beliefs. If anyone wanted to hear what you think, you'd be a guest, not a caller.
  • If you have met the guest, do not share this with the listening audience. We don't want to hear about how you shook the guest's hand at a reading at Cody's Books in Berkeley seven years ago, and I can assure you the guest will not remember you.
  • Do make liberal use of the phrase "I'll take my answer off the air, thank you."
  • Don't start a sentence with "Don't you think..." In fact, this is good advice for life as well.
  • Do limit your remarks to one (or two, if you absolutely have to) question or comment. Pick the most important of your many choices and go with that one. If presented with three or more items, the guest will forget your first couple of questions, answer the last one, and move on anyway.
  • There. If everyone would follow these few simple guidelines, call-in radio would be more pleasant for the entire listening audience.

    Posted by Shelby at December 18, 2003 05:41 PM

The one thing that drives me crazy is the "I'll take my answer off the air" people. I mean, who really cares? It's as much of a conversational waste-of-space as "long time listener, first time caller" . . .

Posted by: Kevin at December 18, 2003 05:57 PM

Oh, see, I like the "I'll take my answer off the air" people because it means they're going to shut up and hang up now. What I REALLY hate are the people who try to get in one last comment or question after their remark has already been addressed.

Posted by: Shelby at December 18, 2003 06:14 PM

It's too bad the screeners at the various NPR shows can't fax this as a leaflet to the callers. :)

I like NPR and some of its talk shows, but I cringe to listen to them at other times, usually when someone gets hotheaded and spouts off.

Posted by: Erik at December 19, 2003 07:23 PM
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