Loyal listeners to Steve Kraske’s “Up to Date” radio show from 11-noon each weekday on KCUR-FM 89.3 can almost predict they will hear an interviewee say at some point, “That’s a great question.”
They won’t say it just to be complimentary to the host.
They say it because Kraske has done his homework prior to the interview. He frequently will ask them a unique question they have never been previously asked by any media person.
It’s a combination of Kraske’s preparedness and that of his long-time producer Stephen Steigman, who books guests and helps Kraske with show prep that makes the show so successful and almost seem effortless to listeners.
Maybe that is why Kraske, the long-time Kansas City Star political reporter/columnist is celebrating his 10th anniversary (and his Birthday!) on Monday as host of the public radio show with Steigman by his side. In that time he has interviewed about 2,600 folks, and will talk about some of them on his show.
He graciously answered some questions tossed to him by Bottom Line Communications:
How did it all begin? How did a print reporter end up with a radio show?
A phone call from KCUR News Director Frank Morris. He asked if I’d be interested, and I about jumped out of my chair. I was pretty excited. But then I started thinking I could never make it work with my job at The Star and told Frank as much. Fortunately, an editor overheard the conversation and told me afterwards that it was a good opportunity and that I should think about it. I called Frank back, and we talked and contemplated and figured it out.
What has been the key to the success of the show the past 10 years?
I’ve been very fortunate to be joined at the hip with producer Stephen Steigman for all 10 years. That’s pretty unusual in the radio world. Hosts and producers are a lot like married couples, and many of those relationships don’t last six months. Steigy has the public-radio ethic down cold, he knows what topics work, and he lines up terrific guests. He’s essential.
Do any special guests stand out in your mind?
A bunch. I got to ask Jane Fonda about her menage a trois. John Lewis told me what it’s like knowing you’re about to be beaten silly on a civil rights march. I asked Michael Dukakis about why he didn’t react with more emotion when asked at a presidential debate how he’d react if his wife was raped.
Annie Leibovitz talked about how she got that famous shot of John Lennon and Yoko nude in bed. David McCullough got so animated explaining how America survived the British thanks to a “providential fog” that rolled through Long Island one morning in 1776. I asked Kathleen Turner about that voice of hers. Kansas City-based ethics wiz Glen McGee talked about my kids living to be 120, and their kids living to be 150. The show is like an ongoing TED conference.
Then there was the mom who brought her infant son into the station one day because the baby would only fall asleep to the sound of my voice. Yikes.
Any awful guests?
Oh yea. Ask me about the young man who began hyper-ventilating on air one day. And he was the only guest.
You really were a multi-media person before it became fashionable.
I remember covering George W. Bush’s campaign kickoff in Iowa in 1999 and watching all these national print reporters walk outside after it was over to do TV standups and radio interviews. And I thought, “I’ve got to pick up my game.”
Do you like doing radio and TV as much as newspaper journalism?
I obviously love newspaper journalism. In my book, it’s the toughest medium because writing, and writing well, is just so damn challenging. Radio is the most fun. TV is somewhere in the middle.
Realistically, did you ever think the show would celebrate its 10th anniversary?
I had an older man tell me once that he heard my first day on the air and was surprised the station brought me back for the second. It took awhile to figure out a new medium. So 10 years? I’m not sure I ever thought about it those terms. I’m usually focused on trying to figure out tomorrow.
I’ve learned that it takes a few years to be “accepted” on the radio, and you hope to keep improving. I hope we’re here 10 years from now.