Almost every weekday morning I listen to Joe Connolly's morning radio broadcast at 5:55am. Connolly is a news editor and anchor for The Wall Street Journal Radio Network. Even though I read two newspapers on the train and breaking news through my handheld, I don't feel quite right if I miss hearing Connolly's unique take on the business headlines.
The reason he is compulsive listening is twofold: First, and functionally, he digests the key business headlines of the day, with an emphasis on clarifying sometimes incredibly complex details for an audience that is still finding its way through the early-morning fog. Second, and most addictively, is Connolly's way of getting at the sentiment of the business owners and customers that he covers. The PRWeek/PRNewswire Media Survey last year found that reporters read blogs to assess public sentiment on key issues. In the same way, I tune in to Connolly, who somehow gets under the skin of business facts and finds a heartbeat.
Connolly says that as many people listen to him in their cars, their needs are very specific to the medium. “I think the sentiment or feeling part of it is particular to radio,” he told me. “You are talking to them one-on-one. You are invited into that car. And if you're not honest, you're not a very good carpool partner.”
Connolly says he arms his listeners with insight they can redeploy at the water cooler. “The goal is to give the listener something to say when the topic turns to, for instance, nationalizing the banks – to give them something to say at work that nobody else knows,” he says.
There is an intimacy to radio that we often overlook in all of our media analysis and focus on the digital world, and a true master of the medium can own your heart and mind like no other. I was recently talking with an industry leader who told me that he regularly listens to radio of a particular political slant, opposite to his personal views. He considers himself better educated about the world because of it, and I suspect it's not simply because he is learning about perspectives that he doesn't embrace. There is an authenticity to the great radio voice that tells the listener, “I am saying this because I believe it to be true.” Politically polarized radio is a particularly persuasive example of the genre, and it's all the more apparent when you don't agree with the views.
I'm sure, therefore, that I'm not the only Connolly fan out there, tuning in each morning to hear from him if things are going to get better out there. When he tells me it is so, I will believe it.
Julia Hood is publishing director of PRWeek.