The TALKERS Interview:
A Conversation with Brian Kilmeade

| May 20, 2011

Fox News personality Brian Kilmeade co-hosts the Fox News Channel morning show “Fox & Friends” and hosts his daily radio talk show, “Kilmeade & Friends,” on the Fox News Radio network. Kilmeade’s media experience prior to joining Fox News includes anchor/reporter positions in local TV news, sports reporting at the local and network level, co-host of the “Jim Brown Show” on the XTRA-AM sports radio network, sideline reporter for the MSG Network plus authorship of two books: The Games Do Count: America’s Best And Brightest On The Power Of Sports (It Books 2005), and It’s How You Play the Game: The Powerful Sports Moments That Taught Lasting Values to America’s Finest (It Books 2007). The TALKERS Interview was conducted by Michael Harrison.

TALKERS: You spent most of your early broadcasting career in sports. How would you describe the differences and similarities in sports broadcasting and news broadcasting?

BK: I have found sports and news to be similar for many reasons: First, they both require research and passion. Like news, it’s not enough to say Fred Wilpon should be forced to sell the Mets because the callers have a habit of asking, well…Why? And then, you gotta know what to say…Not enough to say, “John McCain is a hothead who didn’t have the composure to serve in the oval office”–– your audience needs to know you have facts to back up your opinion.
Unlike sports, I really sense the news and this talk network serves the core of people’s lives. Where sports is really the escape portion of their lives. People may cry and cheer when their team wins or their favorite player is traded. In reality, jobs, taxes, war and elections have a direct impact on how our audience lives rather than what jersey they choose to wear on Sundays. There is just much more on the line. As much as I love interviewing Bill Parcells and Phil Jackson –– the newsmakers I get on this show oftentimes affect world history –– fight wars, or fight against them.

TALKERS: Do you listen to sports talk radio and, if so, what is your opinion about it today?

BK: I do listen to sports radio. Love the “Loose Cannons” on Fox Sports Radio, Michael Kay show on ESPN, Chris Russo on Mad Dog Radio and Mike Francesca on WFAN. I am not big into guys who are fans of teams who just want their guys to win. I like to hear from guys who either know the games inside and out or know the pulse of the locker rooms –– someone who could tell me they have sources that SAY player X wants to be traded and Coach Y is going to quit.

TALKERS: You do high-profile programs on both news/talk television and news/talk radio. What is your assessment of the difference in technical skills and artistic challenges between television broadcasting and radio broadcasting?

BK: With TV you have to be quick and direct. Our show, “Fox & Friends,” specifically, you get four minutes with a guest and it’s hard to establish a solid foundation before you get to a killer question. We often have charts, graphs, sound bites to include and many more people to coordinate. On TV you also have so many more moving parts and moving people. A camera could get whacked, a prompter could go down, the crew can react, the control room could need me to change gears. Where, in radio, I feel like I am locked in –– sealed off with a great team behind the glass. With our format you get at least seven minutes with a guest and I can make it more of a conversation. I think you can use your ear more than your mouth and it seems to be easier to get the best out of a guest.
On radio we also use a lot more sound from other networks/blogs and that helps me get truly passionate about a topic. Our show is also working our Twitter and Facebook communities all located on www.kilmeadeandfriends.com. The fans have their own show going on with us until noon and after! Now that we stream “live,” the radio show feels more like TV everyday.
Overall, less opinion on TV, solid opinion on radio, much more interaction with our audience through the website and, of course, calls on radio.

TALKERS: What are the most important lessons you have learned during the course of your career?

BK: Treat people with respect regardless of title. Put in the effort, judge yourself on your own performance without comparing your progress with a peer on your channel or any other station. Come to play every day. Don’t take my place and this place for granted.

TALKERS: What and who were your broadcasting influences growing up on Long Island?

BK: First time I was in awe: David Letterman. Most likeable person ever watched: Johnny Carson. John Tesh: Smoothest most professional, yet conversational. Rush makes every show sound like his last and moves a story or issue forward while making every hour entertaining. Most entertaining, exciting and consistently unpredictable personality ever: Howard Stern. I just didn’t listen or watch; I studied them.

TALKERS: You do two highly demanding programs each day from early morning into the midday, back-to-back on two different media. How do you maintain your outstanding level of personal energy, professional enthusiasm and knowledge of current events?

BK: First, the question is a compliment. Thank you. In truth, I love the story lines. I am passionate about 95% of the topics. I would be reading about most of this as a hobby if I didn’t have the privilege of doing it for a living. I also like people and know for sure I don’t have all the answers but have a ton of questions. I can’t believe I get to meet people who have the answers! As for energy, I work out everyday, eat great and have finally cut out coffee –– make that cut down.

TALKERS: Tell us about your relationships with the other high-profile broadcasters at Fox News Channel and Fox News Radio.

BK: What I like best about “Kilmeade & Friends” is having my fellow anchors and reporters on and giving them the forum to talk, inform and interact. Gretchen Carlson, Steve Doocy, Bill Hemmer, Martha MacCallum, Chris Wallace, Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, Bret Baier, Stuart Varney, Megyn Kelly, Alisyn Camerota, Neil Cavuto all stopping by regularly, truly “Foxify” the show. When I am on with them I feel like I am in a pub shooting the breeze rather than in a windowless room on the 18th floor. I don’t want to put words in their mouths but I feel there is mutual respect and an egoless environment. I’m also honored to be a part of a new talk lineup that includes legends like John Gibson, Alan Colmes and Tom Sullivan. We are separate shows but on one team along with behind-the-scenes producers, editors and engineers who work tirelessly on a daily basis. And another of the benchmarks of “Kilmeade & Friends” is the access to newsmakers and players who stop by almost daily. And we are not bound by the constraints of TV time, so I really get to probe their minds of a myriad of people ranging from Sammy Hagar, House Speaker John Boehner, Karl Rove, Greg Norman, Colin Quinn and Michele Bachmann this month alone. I just don’t know if there is another show that can boast of that kind of access.

TALKERS: What advice would you give young people today who are interested in having a career in talk broadcasting?

BK: Best advice for a future talk host is be an avid talk radio listener. Ask yourself — who do you like and why? Or what do you like and dislike about him or her. Google them and study their career timeline and analyze their journey. Read magazines, books, biographies –– anything that would broaden your knowledge base. Keep going to school if possible and/or take classes. I often think how much better a listener I would be if I had a law background or masters in economics. At the very least it allows you to ask better questions. Finally, don’t go into this business to be famous, go into it to make a difference because YOU have something to say.

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Category: Interviews