Want to podcast? Create a gripping open.

Sunday, January 14, 2024
(Adapted from my “Four Keys to Creating a Great Audio Interview” for the Orbit Media Studios blog.)

No one gets to the end—or even the middle—of your podcast without listening to the beginning. And a long, wordy, boring open is one of the best ways to ensure people don’t stick around for long.

One key to engaging listeners—especially people new to your podcast (and who doesn’t want a steady flow of them, huh?)—is to open your show with some of the most interesting words from what’s to come.

Here’s a great way to craft a compelling intro for a typical podcast interview:

1. A one- or two-sentence preview, beginning with the most compelling words you can muster, leading into …
2. A short (20-30-second) excerpt from your guest or guests—the most exciting, emotionally powerful cut in the whole show.
3. An ID for the guest(s), yourself, your show and your underwriter or sponsor—mixed, if you must, with theme music (which, based on Rivet360’s groundbreaking data, often will prove a tuneout; keep it short if you use it at all).

Here’s a sample (click to hear audio):image02

Here are more examples:

Tip: You can save yourself and your team production work by crafting your “live” intro (the one you read while you’re sitting with your subject), to include a brief pause where you can later insert a cut. The key is to write an intro that alludes to a question you’re sure you’ll be asking. If a stronger cut emerges, you can recut your first few opening words to match that clip and let the rest of your original recording flow from there.

Tip: Spare your listeners the waste of time that is “Thank you for joining us” or “Thanks for being here” at the opening. That just brings things to a halt. (Because we all know what comes next: “Great to be here.” Or “Thanks for having me.” And then a brief, awkward pause.) Thank your guests as profusely as you like—before and after your recorded segment. If you must thank guests—it is hard to resist—don’t wait for an answer; just move directly to your first question. Keep it moving, start to finish. 

My Hall of Fame induction speech: Cherish your friends, embrace your rivals (2008)

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

On this date in 2008, I was fortunate enough to be inducted into the Illini Media Alumni Hall of Fame. Here’s the speech I prepared for that evening. (Note: About 60 seconds before I wrapped it up—in a bit we’d worked out in advance—fellow inductee and Chicago Blackhawks announcer Gene Honda kindly interjected, as he has at so many hockey games, shouting “One minute remaining!”)

It’s hypocritical of me to stand here, because I really think Hall of Fame honors should not occur before the honoree has shuffled off this mortal coil with a clean rap sheet. On the other hand, I’d have a harder time conveying my gratitude then, so what the heck.

I want to give my thanks and my love to my wonderful family—parents, siblings, kids—and my wife, Pam, without whose amazing ability to sleep through a clock radio at 3:15 in the morning I would have almost no career at all.

And I want to share what I consider three of the most important lessons I’ve learned in the 35 years since I first cracked open a mic at WPGU’s Dorm Broadcasting System.

NUMBER ONE: Teach when you can, share when you can. Teaching others makes us better, more responsive professionals. The very act of explaining yourself helps you become better at what you do—whatever it is. And the karma comes back, in rewarding and surprising ways.

NUMBER TWO. There’s no day so bad it can’t be improved by listening to “Go All the Way” by the Raspberries. Preferably several times in a row. The repeat button on your music player was meant for this song.

NUMBER THREE. Be nice—play it straight, play it fair—with everyone, all the time. Because, if you’re lucky enough to have a career that lasts a decade or more, one day that rival could be your colleague, your neighbor, your boss—or your kid’s boss. This is a tough one, because, let’s face it, we in the media are a darned competitive bunch.

And that brings me to the story of a colleague back in my days at WPGU. He was a couple of years older and, as such, his show on WPGU used to follow my graveyard shift radio show. We had an on-air rivalry. I would insult him or play a derogatory song to introduce his show. But he taught me the hard way not to poke a stick at the guy who controls the microphone—or at least, who takes control of it after you do. One time, he proceeded to take the controls only to dedicate to me Loudon Wainwright’s classic song “Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road.”

Now, it would have been easy for this kind of thing to get out of hand. I’ve seen it happen time and again in this profession. And, clearly, I gotta say, that memory did stick with me. So, of all the people I met during my years on campus, you might not have guessed that Tom Thomas would have become so close a friend years later. And I surely wouldn’t have guessed back then that Tom, bless him, would pass away all too soon this year while working on Illini Media matters, including—as I later came to find out—my nomination to this great, great honor.

And so, I want to thank him publicly—and say to you all: Life is too short for petty competition and emotional rivalries.

Cherish your friends, embrace your rivals. Make them a part of your life, and you’ll be glad you did.

Thank you all.

From dorm broadcasting to the digital frontier: A journalist’s journey

Thursday, August 24, 2023
I can trace the origin of my broadcasting career back to Aug. 24, 1973—early in my first year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, when a tradition known as Quad Day gave campus student organizations a chance to introduce themselves.

In particular, I got to know student radio station WPGU—a story I shared in some detail with a speech to the University of Illinois Library team on the occasion of Homecoming weekend, Oct. 14, 2022.

To mark the 50th anniversary of that life-changing encounter, here’s video and a rough transcript of those remarks.

Charlie Meyerson …

Wednesday, August 23, 2023
… has delivered award-winning Chicago-area news for a long time—including more than 10 years at the city’s legendary progressive rock station, WXRT-FM 93.1; almost nine years at pioneering “smooth jazz” station WNUA-FM 95.5; almost 13 years at Tribune Co., as senior producer and Daywatch columnist at chicagotribune.com and then as news director at Chicago’s premier news/talk station, WGN-AM 720.

After a year as Chicago bureau chief for the short-lived (but fun) FM News Chicago and New York—covering government, politics, culture and technology—Meyerson became founding head of news at the digital audio startup Rivet, where he led the team to two national Edward R. Murrow Awards; adjunct professor of journalism at Roosevelt University; an occasional contributor to WXRT, WBEZ-FM 91.5 and Crain’s Chicago Business; and principal at Meyerson Strategy, a content strategy, podcasting and media consulting practice.

With his Rivet colleagues, he has been awarded a U.S. patent for delivering a “contextually relevant media content stream based on listener preference.

His latest project, Chicago Public Square, launched in January 2017, is a return to the newscasting biz—this time through an email-delivered news roundup billed as “Chicago’s new front page.”

You can hear some of his most memorable audio work—old and new—here, here and here.

Meyerson, winner of dozens of journalism awards—including a national Edward R. Murrow Award for audio investigative reporting and a national UPI award for investigative reporting—is not picking his nose in the photo above.


“I can trace the origin of my broadcasting career back to Aug. 24, 1973.”
March 2, 2022: Best free daily roundup in your inbox.’ (Chicago Reader)
Square is the culmination of Meyerson’s … career as a journalist.”
Oct. 29, 2020: This newspaper veteran launched his own Chicago-focused newsletter, and it’s thriving.’ (Tech and media journalist Simon Owens)
“Meyerson had the kind of background that was perfect for launching a Chicago-focused newsletter.”

Sept. 20, 2020: ‘There’s not a project he doesn’t create that a year later you don’t find an award with’ (Weigel Broadcasting executive producer Fred Weintraub)

“Any project that Charlie works on or creates, really, is never a project about himself. It’s about the teams that he creates.”

June 26, 2020: Sustaining journalism in a pandemic: ‘We need each other’ (Illinois Press Association)

“What’s yet to be seen is what that right size is for the media landscape at large. Is it going to be the big companies shrinking, or the small companies growing?”
June 9, 2020: Chicago Public Square: Keeping Chicago informed and winning awards along the way.’ (Rad Letters)
“Readers’ attention is not to be taken for granted. Their priority is fundamentally opposed to publishers’ and broadcasters’ priority: We want them to spend all their time with us, and they want to get on with their lives. In email—as in radio news—every word counts.”
May 28, 2020: Chicago Public Square offers daily news briefings (WGN Radio)
“Charlie joined Bob Sirott to talk about … the competitiveness of digital news… and the ‘embarrassment of riches’ when it comes to news.”
March 18, 2020: Charlie’s daily newsletter … a must-read every single day.’ (WGN Radio)
“Meyerson joins Justin to talk about Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park leaders urging residents to ‘shelter in place’ to slow the spread of COVID-19.”
Jan. 30, 2020: The future of local news media (Newcity)
“A diversity of reliable, responsible and well-funded sources is a good thing—and a big improvement over the days when a handful of organizations, mostly run by white guys, decided what was newsworthy.”
Nov. 19, 2019: How News Outlets Can Make Email Newsletters More Effective.’ (Local News Initiative)
“Certain words and turns of phrase and presentations and headline styles can work to connect people with great journalism.”
Nov. 11, 2019: Meyerson wins best blog in Chicago Reader poll.’ (Illinois College of Media)
“More than 30,000 people voted in more than 300 categories of the poll.”
May 13, 2019: ‘Meyerson … picked up best radio newscast honors for The Chicago Public Square Newscast.’ (Robert Feder)
“The other finalist in the category was WBBM Newsradio. Meyerson also had a hand in the winner for best podcast, Rivet Radio, where the veteran Chicago newsman works part-time as vice president/editorial and development.”
Sept. 18, 2018: Meyerson … moderated a thoughtful and enlightening panel …’ (Robert Feder)
“… on how newspaper editorial boards operate.”
April 4, 2018: ‘Charlie Meyerson, the veteran Chicago journalist and digital news pioneer who keeps finding new ways to do great work …’ (Robert Feder)
“… just launched a Chicago Public Square Newscast series.”
April 1, 2018: ‘Charlie is a pioneer in the e-newsletter headline business.’ (Illinois Entertainer columnist Rick Kaempfer)
Meyerson has been a part of the Chicago media landscape now for four decades.”
Sept. 13, 2017: ‘Charlie Meyerson, our terrific moderator’ (Wednesday Journal)

“Those of you lucky enough to be in the audience … saw the easy rapport between Axelrod and Charlie ….”
July 28, 2017: This veteran Chicago journalist is using an email ‘newscast’ to keep people informed (Poynter)
“In his opinion… what works in newsletters is what’s always worked best in journalism: Be clear and concise, don’t waste people’s time, offer them something of value.”
June 29, 2016: A Murrow award for Rivet Radio (Chicago Reader)
“A sweet honor for an innovative operation that was a gleam in Charlie Meyerson’s eye just two and a half years ago.”
June 21, 2016: Rivet Radio Makes the Best of a Bad Situation (FishbowlNY)
[The national Edward R. Murrow Award-winning report] “is hosted by Charlie Meyerson.”
March 21, 2016: Free from the tyranny of the clock (WGN-AM podcast)
“Charlie Meyerson … joins Justin to discuss the evolution of the media landscape, the future of radio and podcasting, digital media, content creation, the ease of editing, what it takes to get people to listen and finding ways to monetize your product.”
March 3, 2016: Rivet Radio’s Charlie Meyerson gives our readers podcast pointers (Chicago Journalists Association)
Award-winning Chicago radio (WXRT, WGN, WBEZ) and Internet (chicagotribune.com, Rivet) newsman Charlie Meyerson’s taking his expertise in audience engagement and radio production on the road over the next few weeks.”

 Sept. 19, 2015: ‘Listen to it like you hate me’: Audio editing advice from a radio professional (Excellence in Journalism 2015 convention coverage) 

Meyerson … taught me how to be a sharp self-editor, my best-worst critic, and a tactful audio journalist who throws it back to the basics with Strunk and White.”
Dec. 26, 2013:
Chicago startup Rivet News Radio echoes Zite and Pandora for audio news (Poynter)
“News head Charlie Meyerson explained to me the vision for the service: ‘Our mission is to provide one riveting experience after another.’”
Jan. 7, 2013: Kudos to veteran Chicago newsman Charlie Meyerson …(Robert Feder)
“It’s an ideal match for WBEZ and Meyerson, who pioneered the format as senior producer and Daywatch columnist for chicagotribune.com.”
July 18, 2012: Inside the Merlin staff meeting (Radio Ink)
“We are better positioned, with stronger, sharper skills than any of us had a year ago to go on and create something new again, somewhere else.”
June 24, 2012: Charlie Meyerson: Optimistic News Guy (Radiogirl podcast)
“Charlie … talks about his career at WXRT, WNUA, the Tribune Company, and WGN Radio. He also talks about his audio reports, his new teaching gig at Roosevelt University, and shares his optimism about the media.”
June 28, 2011: Merlin Media Quickly Hires Meyerson (Media Confidential)
“Charlie Meyerson has quickly landed a new gig.”
June 19, 2011: Charlie Meyerson Says Goodbye To WGN and Tribune (Chicagoland Radio and Media)
“We moved the news team from its home of a quarter-century on the 1st floor of Tribune Tower to the 4th floor, integrating it more tightly with the Chicago Tribune and WGN-TV news teams. We launched aggressive email and text alert services for our listeners. We overhauled and improved WGNradio.com several times. We aired some of Chicago’s smartest radio news reporting and analysis—on technology, the weather, the environment, politics, civic affairs and more. And the WGN Radio News team’s hard work has been recognized with several significant awards this year: The AP/Illinois prizes for Outstanding News Operation and Best Newscast; the Chicago Headline Club Lisagor Award for Best Newscast; and a contributing role in the Illinois Broadcasters Association Silver Dome awards for Station of the Year and Best Station Website.”
July 29, 2009: WGN-AM names Chicago Tribune Daywatch columnist Charlie Meyerson news director (Chicago Tribune)
“His return to broadcasting, announced Wednesday and effective Aug. 6, comes about 11 years after Meyerson left the business and joined the Tribune to help develop its then-nascent digital presence and strategy.”
Aug. 12, 2008: One-stop news . . . from a newspaper? (Chicago Reader)
“Daywatch, the Tribune‘s daily news briefing, isn’t sticking to news originated by the Tribune. Charlie Meyerson, who compiles Daywatch each morning and e-mails it to about 60,000 subscribers, has taken to sweetening the package with stories that catch his eye no matter where he finds them–and that includes in the Sun-Times.”
May 14, 2008: The Power of Connections: Media Meets Mission, panel discussion at The Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management (WBEZ)
“You don’t need a broadcast license, you don’t need to own a huge antenna, you don’t need to have a TV studio, you don’t need to suck up to someone who owns giant printing presses, you know, all you need is a computer or a library card that will get you access to a computer, and … you have the potential to connect to an unlimited audience.”
November 2007: Advancing the Story
“None of this should be cause for despair among journalists who fear becoming slaves to public opinion, reporting only what an audience wants instead of what they think it needs. … Journalists who want to sail an audience in a specific direction need not be slaves to the winds of audience preferences. But, like a good sailor, they can navigate more successfully if they perceive which way those winds are blowing.”
Feb. 18, 2007: Chicago Radio Spotlight
“This is the best time in history to become a journalist.”
Aug. 25, 2006: News breaks at chicagotribune.com
[Review of Meyerson presentation at Society of Professional Journalists convention]: “The BEST convention session I’ve attended.”
July/August 2004: Illinois Alumni magazine
“The WPGU reunion, held in Champaign in April in honor of the student-run radio station’s 50 years of existence, lured Chicago radio news veteran Charlie Meyerson ‘77 COM, MS ‘78 COM, back to campus for the first time since 1987.”
March 14, 2002: Online Journalism Review
“Charlie Meyerson, a chicagotribune.com staff reporter who was a news radio veteran before he became an Internet reporter, informally trains colleagues in broadcast basics in the online newsroom. In addition to his text news updating and reporting duties online, including an early-morning, e-mailed update newsletter to [60,000+] subscribers [as of 2006], he gives an 8 a.m. radio broadcast on WGN-AM, a Tribune Company station.”
January/February 2000: American Journalism Review
“Meyerson and his afternoon counterpart, Joyce Garcia, update the information several times a day, taking feeds from the Tribune’s staff of a half-dozen online reporters and occasionally from the paper’s print reporters. Their goal is nothing less than their slogan—‘Instant Chicago.’”
October 1999: The Communicator
“Three years ago, Charlie Meyerson, the news director at WNUA-FM in Chicago, sent a memo to his new bosses at Chancellor Media Corporation, urging them to embrace the Internet.”
April 7, 1999: Editor & Publisher
“Daywatch columnist Charlie Meyerson, a 20-year radio news and newspaper veteran who recently joined the Tribune breaking news operation, says he won’t be surprised to see some of his old radio listeners become readers of his Web content.”
Oct. 11, 1998: The sound of news is fading out on many FM stations (Chicago Tribune)
“Meyerson … [is] taking his time before deciding what his next move will be, and it may not be back to the radio airwaves. He says that whatever happens, the Internet is bound to create more opportunities for journalists who know how to make news compelling: “The one thing that won’t change is the ability to tell a story, and tell it well.”
Sept. 2, 1998: Sam Weller’s 411 (Newcity)
“Longtime WNUA-FM 95.5 news director Charlie Meyerson has parted ways with his former employers. … The award-winning journalist would like to stay in radio, but sees the Internet as an option as well.”
Dec. 5, 1990: Chicago Tribune Inc. column
“He’s in a helicopter covering a story about an oil tanker on the Chicago River (hey, this is fantasy, folks) and gets attacked by a giant flying monster.”