Larry Mantle

When all hell breaks loose behind the scenes on "AirTalk," we ask ourselves if listeners have been harmed

I’m sure it’s true at your work that sometimes everything falls into place -- you have time to grab a cup of coffee and to think a bit more deeply about what you’re doing.  Other days, no such luck.  This morning’s “AirTalk” was clearly the latter.

Things looked straightforward enough when we arrived at the Mohn Broadcast Center shortly after 8:00 a.m.  However, we soon realized big changes would have to be made on our show’s lineup. 

The “Los Angeles Times” had published some details of Mayor Villaraigosa’s budget proposal that would be announced later in the afternoon.  We knew we wanted to hear the labor union response to the mayor’s proposal to cut back pensions and extend retirement age.  We also wanted to hear from a critic who thought the mayor didn’t go far enough.

The union rep was relatively easy, though debate within the unions led to some uncertainty over who would be allowed to represent them.  We struck out in finding a critic from the opposite side.  With less than 15-minutes to go to live, we called on our terrific reporter Frank Stoltze.  As the true pro he is, he stepped in to save us (“you’re calling me 14-minutes before I’m supposed to go on live with you?!”

Then we decided to piggyback onto a “Morning Edition” story about some women’s groups pushing for extended family leave for childcare purposes.  Our producers quickly found an advocate for it, but struggled to get the right voice for opposition.  Our substitute producer Joanne pulled it out of the fire for us at 10:16 a.m. with a guest who represents small businesses.  The segment would begin in three-minutes!

This kind of last minute booking isn’t a daily occurrence, but you might be surprised how often it just ends up working out this way.  At least it surprises me, even after all these years.

Thank goodness for our wonderful team of producers.  Without their relentless push for the best possible guests, we couldn’t provide the debates we do.  At the end of a particularly chaotic morning we ask ourselves the same question – “were any listeners harmed?”  It’s a light way to get at the most important matter at hand – was the on-air presentation solid, even if the scramble to get it together was anything but smooth.

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