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Opening Monologue: on mentorship

From the 1/13/18 Saturday Night Special program on WGN Radio:

We tackle a variety of themes each week on the Saturday Night Special, from pop culture to politics. Sometimes, we pick the theme based on something we’re simply interested in, sometimes because a listener asked a questions that we’d like the answer to as well, and other times, the theme is directly tied to news in Chicago, or somewhere else in the world. And sometimes, its a combination of things or something else entirely.

Chicago radio listeners will know that earlier this week, we lost longtime WGN Radio host and Walk of Famer Milt Rosenberg, who died at age 92. But, what you might not know is that the format of this show, The Saturday Night Special, is based on the format of the show he hosted here at the station for years. In fact, in a sense, Milt Rosenberg gave me my start in radio, inviting a then-Chicago Tribune new hire in the books section to participate in his year-end book review program.

I read and studied the eight books he assigned for weeks beforehand, set to appear as a panelist with two other guests. I arrived that night, books in tow, filled with post-its and with note papers sticking out from important chapters. Having not yet met him in person until air time, I’d been warned his interviews were unforgivingly tough and I was ready, and full of nerves, and… it went fine. Better than, it went kind of great.

After that, I was a guest again here, filled in for him even at one point, officially hosting a radio program by myself for the first time ever. It wasn’t great, or even good; the commercial break timing was overwhelming, the buttons to press on the console unnerved me, but later, he was kind. Technical things, he reasoned, we can learn and get used to. Conversation is either a you have it or you don’t thing.

Over time, he encouraged me to unflinchingly dig deeply into subjects on the air when they interested me, how to navigate a conversation when the stakes are high, how to prepare beforehand, and very importantly, how to discuss and debate. He was, for all intents and purposes, a mentor to me, though completely informally, and, sadly, I don’t know if I ever told him how much i learned from him or appreciated the knowledge I gained from watching him at work. And, now, of course, the window to do so has closed.

But my words about Milt Rosenberg are not that unique; he was an unofficial mentor to a lot of people in radio.

Tonight, we’re exploring mentorship, what it is, when it’s important, and how to actually do it effectively, whether formally, informally or, as is sometimes the case, accidentally.

Regular contributor, psychologist and best-selling author Dr. John Duffy will join us tonight for the duration of the show because while the topic of mentorship may immediately conjure up only business and workplace topics, — which we will definitely talk about– the notion of mentorship is much broader than all that.

That’s all coming up tonight on the Saturday Night Special. We’ll be right back to get the conversation underway.