Me: He’s a man who is all business when it comes to business. Kai Ryssdal is the voice of Marketplace, and for the unenlightened, it is a half-hour business news radio show produced and distributed by American Public Media on public radio stations five days a week all over this country. He has been in his current role for 13 years. A graduate of Emery University, then eight years in the Navy, a Navy pilot, worked in the Pentagon, MA from Georgetown, U.S. Foreign Service in Canada and China, even a stint with California Public Radio…tell me, sir, you are a Renaissance Man are you not?
Kai: I’ve done some things, but I’m not sure what the test is for qualifying as a Renaissance Man.
Me: Fair enough. Since you’ve been in the big chair at Marketplace the show has won some awards. Edward R. Murrow Prize, an Emmy, awards from radio news directors, and some 12 million listeners. What defines the success of your show?
Kai: What defines the success of the show?
Me: When people say Marketplace is a great show because….
Kai: What we do, or at least is our goal, is to make the issue understandable. If we can’t get someone in her or his car listening to our show to have an a-ha moment on the topic we are discussing, we’ve missed the mark.
Me: You’ve said the term ‘Marketplacey’ in other interviews. You’ve described it, I believe, as a type of rhythm, a style that is unique that defines the show. Why does it work?
Kai: I’m not sure I can answer that question. I can tell you that I think it is a style that expresses a serious, but relaxed treatment of the subject matter. It’s not too formal, nor too casual. We try to keep out the political agenda and focus on what is the structure of the problem.
Me: Might some say you trim down the problem too much? Interviews on Marketplace tend to be short and include the view of only one person, correct?
Kai: We try to do a mix of viewpoints, but we don’t try to do the point/counterpoint interviews. We try to break issues down into small components and cover them in several segments.
Me: Is it investigative reporting?
Kai: Not in the sense that we are digging up a secret and exposing it to the world. Our mission is more to educate and illuminate, not uncover.
Me: But doesn’t that mean you control the process?
Kai: I’m not sure I understand your point.
Me: Do you decide what people learn about an issue? Do you shape the issue for the listener?
Kai: Not with a nefarious intent, but we do clear away the clutter of the issue so a person with little or no experience in the subject can understand the details of the problem.
Me: Okay, we’ll have to leave this here. Kai, thank you for your time.
Kai: Thank you.