Talk Show Handbook

Special thanks to Marcia Alvar of the NPR Local News Initiative and Jeff Hansen of KUOW and the PRPD Board for developing the material in this Handbook. Arthur Cohen also assisted in the effort.


Producing a local news/talk program at the consistently high level of quality our listeners expect requires nothing less than a full station commitment, comprehensive advance planning, effective daily teamwork and relentless, ongoing attention to program quality. This handbook has been prepared to help stations meet this challenge.

This handbook focuses on the fundamental radio basics of doing Talk Shows for public radio listeners. Terrestrial radio remains the foundation of our listening and our support. There are few stations that can succeed in new platforms if the foundation is unsteady.

The advice and “best practices” offered in this handbook are built on audience research, most notably the findings of PRPD’s 2001 Core Values of Local News/Information/Talk Programs and 2006 Sense of Place research done by PRPD and the NPR Local News Initiative. We’ve also included lots of road-tested tools, tips and advice developed by your colleagues.

We’re always looking for more so if you have something you’d like to share, please send it along! What isn’t here – yet anyway – are definitive “best practices” for use of new media. Many programs are experimenting with online and social networking tools (blogs, Facebook, Twitter etc) in an effort to extend and enhance the content they offer. But the jury is still out on the actual value these efforts add for listeners. As we learn more about what works and what doesn’t, we’ll share them in this handbook. So keep us posted – we’re all in this together!