The Selection and Shaping of Talent

By Doug Berman, Executive Producer, Car Talk and Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!

“I have yet to meet someone who's so interesting that we can just run whatever happens to come out their mouth for an hour and have it be great talent and great radio “

Talent does not simply exist on its own. It has to be produced and edited. To me, talent cannot really be separated from content and format – it's sort of the holy trinity. The talent has to embody the content, the talent really has to be the content, and then that talent has to also be in a format, which brings out the best part of that person, so they're sort of inseparable.

Here are 4 things I look for when I'm evaluating talent:

1. Are they content?
Do they live the content? Do they embody the content? What that speaks to is depth. Is there something there? Does the person have something to say? Is the person interesting? Is the person authentic? Are they really who they seem to be? And one of the interesting ways I realized I judge this is: are they who they seem to be in person, as well as on the air?

 I've yet to meet someone who can be completely boring, sitting across the table from you, and be fascinating on the air everyday or every week.”

 2. Are they personally, for lack of a better word, attractive?

People like to hang around people who are more interesting, smarter, and funnier than they are. And I think the same is true on radio. Is this person – do they have some sort of magnetism? -- someone you want to spend time with? Does the person have warmth and humanity?

3. Are they interested in solutions?

 ”I think cynicism can be funny, and it can be entertaining sometimes, but as the basis of a long-term relationship with someone, I don't think it cuts it.”

In my mind, when you're talking about a long-term relationship, which is what you're trying to develop, you want someone with a positive worldview. I think that's one of the things that public radio talent needs to have. Solution oriented, I think was the way we referred to it and I think you could probably say that about any talent that we consider A+ talent in the system.

4. Does the person write well for him or herself? 
Since writing and communicating are such key parts of what's important. Can the person express him or herself well? So, if you find these qualities, you build a format that brings out the best in a person, plays down the worst, then edit the hell out of them – I guarantee you, you will develop star talent!