A Rose by Any Other Name: The Surprising Stories Behind Kentucky Weeds

Weeds of KentuckyHere at the University Press of Kentucky, we recently finished digitizing over 1000 books dating back to our founding in 1943. It’s a lot of work going through all those books, but it’s been a process full of fun surprises and astounding discoveries. Best of all, every now and then, there’s a book that we can’t put down—a book so good we just can’t resist sharing it with you again:

As Shakespeare’s Juliet once said, “[T]hat which we call a rose/
By any other name would smell as sweet,” and no book in our catalog demonstrates what’s really in a name as beautifully as Patricia Haragan’s Weeds of Kentucky and Adjacent States: A Field Guide.

In Kentucky, where commercial agriculture is so important, some of the plants that were prized by our ancestors are considered nuisances today due to the harm they inflict on crops and livestock. In this informative and surprising book, Patricia Haragan not only provides a guide for identifying these plants, but reveals the cultural and natural history behind each. Here are some of our favorites—from the poisonous weed that allegedly killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother to the ivy that was once indispensable to brewmasters. Click on the illustrations below for longer descriptions:

The next time you go out to weed your garden or yard, maybe you’ll recognize some of these plants from their mug shots. Pick up a copy of Weeds of Kentucky and Adjacent States to learn about other interesting plants you may have overlooked.

Rosy Twisted Stalk

Top Ten Disappearing Flora of Kentucky

9780813124964Kentucky, known for its rich soil and temperate climate, is the perfect location for a stunning growth of diverse and beautiful flora. However, due to climate and land use changes, these flowers are quickly disappearing. In Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky, Thomas G. Barnes, Deborah White, and Marc Evans write to spread awareness and promote environmental preservation. Here is a list of the top ten endangered wildflowers in the state, with some even endangered on the national level:

  1. Large-leaf grass of Parnassus

    Large-Leaf Grass-of-Parnassus

    Rosy twisted stalk (image featured at the top of this post)— Rosy twisted stalk is known only from Black Mountain, an area of the highest elevation in the state and home to many rare plants and natural communities. The flowers of the plant hang from its stem like bells.

  1. Sweet fern—The sweet fern is a low-growing shrub, not a fern, despite what the name suggests. The fern is known for its fragrant odor. It can be found only near the Big South Fork River.

    Cumberland Rosemary

    Cumberland Rosemary

  1. Large-leaf grass-of-parnassus—This grass-of-parnassus species is found in wetland seeps and has fewer than three locations in Kentucky, all near the southern border of the state.
  1. Cumberland rosemary—Cumberland rosemary, a member of the mint family, only grows in sandy river deposits among boulders. It is endangered in Kentucky and federally threatened.
  1. Rose pogonia orchid—The rose pogonia orchid is one of nineteen endangered plants located in Bad Branch, the deepest gorge of Pine Mountain.

    Copper Iris

    Copper Iris

  1. Copper iris—The copper iris, a regal-looking perennial plant with a reddish color, can only be found in the wetlands of far western Kentucky. It attracts the insects, hummingbirds, as well as gardeners.
  1. Dwarf sundew—The dwarf sundew, exclusive to a single region of southern Kentucky, is a mere inch or two tall and wide. To obtain nutrients, the sundew captures small insects on its sticky leaves.
  1. Grass pink orchid—The grass pink orchid has disappeared from several wetland sites in the last twenty years and is now known from only one location in the eastern part of the state.

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

    Blue-Flower Coyote-Thistle

  1. Royal catchfly—A striking red flower, the royal catchfly is pollinated by hummingbirds. This plant is found in prairies, and very little of this grassland habitat remains in the state.
  1. Blue-flower coyote-thistle—The blue-flower coyote-thistle of Western Kentucky has decreased due to changes in hydrology and land use. These flowers are characterized by their tiny flowers, similar to those of thistles.

Planning a Native Habitat Garden

Gardening for the Birds by Thomas G. BarnesDerby day is behind us, which means one thing in Kentucky: It’s time to get outside and garden! Many people are interested in landscaping to attract birds, butterflies, and other wildlife to their backyards, but may be unsure about where to begin.

In Gardening for the Birds, Thomas G. Barnes offers tips that will help even novice gardeners use native plants to create attractive, low-maintenance habitat gardens for wildlife. Such landscaping, Barnes notes, can be as simple or as complex as the homeowner wants to make it. Today we’re sharing an excerpt from this classic book that outlines five simple steps for designing and planting a native wildflower garden:

Planning Your Garden

1. Determine the environmental conditions of your planting site. To reap all of the  conservation benefits of using native plants in the landscape, rely on species adapted to the environmental conditions of the planting site rather than trying to adapt the site to a set of pre-selected plants. You reduce labor and costs of site preparation, have much greater success, and minimize post-planting maintenance. As Ken Druse states in The Natural Habitat Garden, “Don’t fight the site.”

Depending on past land use, soils may need to be restored to make them capable of supporting native plants. Soils are often compacted and lack topsoil following construction activities. If the soil is inadequate, loosen it to improve aeration and drainage properties and replace lost nutrients before planting. Sites currently supporting landscape plants of any kind are probably capable of supporting native plants with little additional preparation.

Plan for a Butterfly Garden:Butterfly_Garden

2. Choose an appropriate natural community as a landscape model. A natural community is an assemblage of plants and animals that co-exist in nature because they have similar requirements for natural resources and are able to compete successfully with each other for those resources. A natural community is usually characterized by its plant and animal species. We can predict the type of natural community that will develop on a site based on climate, soils, topography, and other environmental conditions. Natural communities are excellent landscape models because they are self-sustaining and support a diversity of plant and animal species. Once you have defined the environmental conditions of your planting site, determine the natural community type that occurs under similar conditions in your region of Kentucky. Plants characteristic of that community will grow well in your habitat garden.

Although many types of natural communities exist in Kentucky, they can be classified generally as upland or lowland forests or prairies. Most of the Kentucky landscape originally was forested, and, in the absence of grazing and fire, most sites eventually regenerate to forest. Various management techniques such as mowing, grazing, or burning are needed to maintain open landscapes in most of Kentucky. For landscaping purposes, it is helpful to know the light and soil conditions common to forest and prairie communities.

In a natural forest, overstory trees create a canopy that filters the amount of sunlight reaching the forest floor. The leaf canopy creates conditions of dappled shade and sunlight. In some forests, little direct sunlight reaches the forest floor. Shrubs and herbaceous plants that grow in a forest are adapted to varying levels of shade. In a deciduous forest, the floor receives full sun throughout the spring until the leaf canopy develops. This sun promotes new spring growth of ferns and wildflowers. A backyard with mature shade trees creates conditions of shade similar to that of a natural forest. In contrast, the shade on the north side of a building is a dense shade not desirable for most plants, but many native forest shrubs and wildflowers do fine in dense shade if drainage and air circulation are adequate.

Forest soils generally have a high organic content. Leaves, bark, stems, and other plant debris litter the forest floor each year and begin the process of decomposition that builds the forest soils. This process can be replicated in the backyard by mulching with leaf litter and amending the soil with compost, peat, or other organic materials.

In contrast to the forest, a prairie is an open grassland characterized by a high diversity of grass and wildflower species and few tree or shrub species. It is a more extreme environment than a forest because it receives full exposure to the sun and elements. Most prairie plants tolerate a wide range of moisture conditions and are drought-tolerant. The bluestem prairie, which once covered millions of acres in Kentucky, ranged from wet to dry. In a wet prairie, plants are generally tolerant of saturated soil conditions (soil at maximum water-holding capacity), but most are also able to withstand dry periods of varying lengths. In dry prairies or glades, plants are tolerant of well drained to excessively well drained soil conditions. These plants are highly drought-tolerant and excellent choices for xeriscaping (landscaping to conserve water).

Prairie soils vary greatly from one community to the next. Most prairie plants are extremely efficient at utilizing available soil nutrients and do not require highly fertile soils. Some prairie plants grow in shallow, rocky soils, but getting them established in such soils can be difficult.

It is critical that you minimize competition from cultivated grasses and agricultural weeds. Most prairie plants thrive in a good garden soil if competition is minimized. Fertilizing with nitrogen only promotes the growth of annual invasive weeds. If there is a severe deficiency of phosphorus or potassium or if the soil needs liming (as determined by a soil test), apply these fertilizers following soil test recommendations. If a site supports a lawn or a healthy growth of weeds, it should be adequate for growing most prairie plants.

If your site contains overstory trees and is shady much of the day, model your garden after a forest community. If the site receives six or more hours of direct sun, particularly during the hottest time of the day (late morning to late afternoon), a prairie community is a better model. If the site stays wet much of the growing season or is prone to seasonal flooding, a lowland community is appropriate. The savanna community (or barrens on drier upland sites) might be a suitable model for large sites or sites with some shade and some sun. A savanna is an open meadow with scattered individual trees or groves of trees and is very park-like in appearance.

It is possible to plant trees to create shadier conditions or remove trees to create sunnier conditions. Creating wooded conditions is a worthwhile, if long-term, process of great value to wildlife. Establishment of trees might be expensive, but maintenance is minimal. Any healthy, native tree should be considered a valuable landscape and wildlife asset. A single mature (30-foot-tall) hemlock tree purchased from a nursery can cost $12,000. A 60-year-old white oak is worth tens of thousands of dollars. Unless a tree is severely diseased or weedy and invasive (tree of heaven, for example), removal is not recommended. It is better to maintain existing trees whenever possible and convert already sunny sites to native prairie plants.

Hummingbird Garden:Butterfly_Garden

3. Create plant menus for each habitat garden. Create a menu of plant species for each landscape. Native plant nursery catalogs provide availability and cost information, and many contain detailed habitat and cultivation information for the species they offer. Consult a field guide or botanical book for more information and to see drawings or photographs of the species you intend to establish.

A plant menu can be a simple list of plant species but has more value if composed as a matrix containing functional and physical attributes for each species. Such information is crucial when you begin the landscape design process. Include plant type, sun tolerance, soil moisture tolerance, aesthetic characteristics (flowers and fruits, bark, form, autumn color), period of bloom, wildlife value, and potential uses (shade, evergreen screen, erosion control).

Rock Garden:Rock_Garden

4. Use diverse plants. Most wildflowers and other native plants have distinct flowering and fruiting periods that last a few weeks, rarely longer. For lots of color as well as nectar, fruit, and nut production, use a diversity of plant types (trees, shrubs, ground covers) and species. Diverse plant types provide assorted habitat elements that can be used by a variety of wildlife species. Select various species that bloom during spring, summer, and fall and plants that hold their fruits into winter. Native grasses provide good color in the garden in autumn and excellent wildlife cover in winter. In Kentucky, most forest wildflowers are spring-blooming, so add later-blooming species of woodland phlox, lobelia, aster, and goldenrod. Most prairie plants do not bloom until late spring. Some of the earliest bloomers include coreopsis, wood mint, sundrops, and downy phlox. Offering areas of both forest and prairie in your landscape provides year-round food and cover for wildlife.

5. Use clustering for enhanced beauty and wildlife value. Some wildflowers have large, showy flowers and can be used individually or in small groups with dramatic effect. Many wildflowers, however, are most attractive when planted in species clusters, or drifts. In nature, the most striking wildflower displays result from a tendency for species to grow in clumps. This tendency is influenced in large part by their methods of self-propagation and seed dispersal. Even in a garden, each species rearranges itself over time according to its own propagation patterns. One wild columbine is pretty for close-up viewing beneath a tree, but a drift of columbines in a wildflower border creates a solid block of color and texture visible from a distance. Planting species in clusters of several to dozens lends a natural quality and beauty to the landscape.

Clustering is also beneficial to wildlife. With the maximum amount of food in a single location, animals expend minimal energy to acquire it. Imagine the energy you would use if you had to go to one restaurant for an appetizer, another for the main course, and a third for coffee and dessert! Now think about a hummingbird—a bird with an extremely high metabolic rate—having to fly from one neighborhood to another just to find enough food for lunch. By planting large clusters of favorite foods (phlox, columbine, bee balm, cardinal flower) and hanging an artificial feeder or two you can feed many hummers with little effort on their part.

Thomas G. Barnes (1958–2014) was extension professor of forestry and wildlife specialist at the University of Kentucky. He is the author of Gardening for the Birds, Kentucky’s Last Great Places, Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky, and Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky.


Books in Bloom

There is no moment or time of year in the Bluegrass State when one of more than 2,000 native wildflowers is not blooming. Although Kentucky has been called the “Land of Cane and Clover,” the Commonwealth is a geographical crossroads of North and South, East and West, and home to more than 3,000 species of diverse flora.

From butterfly-attracting blooms to wild orchids, here are some of the wildflowers that you may see blooming statewide this summer (via Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky by Thomas G. Barnes and S. Wilson Francis):

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Whether you’re interested in learning more about Kentucky’s diverse flora or just want to identify that pretty wildflower that sprang up in your backyard, look no further than the University Press of Kentucky’s selection of natural history books:


President Barack Obama speaks during a prime time news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 29, 2009.

Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy

Robert G. Kaufman responds to President Obama’s Foreign Policy Declarations in The Atlantic

In a recent cover story for The Atlantic, President Obama sought to define and clarify the foreign policy of his two terms in office. ‘The Obama Doctrine,’ as the article referred to it, is, in Robert G. Kaufman’s opinion, has damaged the US’s reputation abroad by  imprudently abandoning the muscular internationalism that has marked US foreign policy since the end of World War II. In a recent op-ed for The Daily Caller, Kaufman illuminates both the failings of the president’s “grand strategy,” and responds to the president’s own opinions in The Atlantic.

Click here to read the full editorial in The Daily Caller.

Judging from his recent lengthy interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, President Obama has learned nothing in the past seven years from the serious, serial failures of his foreign policy. Instead, Obama radiated a preternatural, delusional, and typical self-confidence expounding on the efficacy of his Obama Doctrine, which he has followed faithfully since 2009.

The Obama Doctrine combines the worst features of the  morally obtuse anti-war left, unrealistic realism, and naïve multilateralism. The president views the so-called arrogance of American power as a greater danger than the threats emanating from devils and dictatorships abroad. Likewise, Obama rejects American exceptionalism while routinely apologizing for American sins abroad, which he has exaggerated and often imagined. Like unrealistic realists, Obama  ignores the importance of ideology and regime type in identifying friends, foes, threats and opportunities. This fallacious premise explains why he eagerly engages virulently anti-American adversaries such as Putin in Russia, the militant mullahs of Tehran, the repressive, aggressive leadership in China bent on achieving hegemony rather than stability in the world’s most important geopolitical region, and Castro’s totalitarian tyranny in Cuba.

This accounts for the President’s unwillingness to admit that the danger of Islamism, choosing to conciliate rather than confront it. Obama’s persistent unwillingness to distinguish democratic friends from rogue regimes that are foes accounts for his default inclination initially to deem the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt a legitimate partner for peace rather than a mortal enemy of Israel implacably hostile to America’s legitimate interests.

The fallacy of moral equivalence between freedom and tyranny accounts for the president striving assiduously to put distance between the United States and decent democratic allies such as Israel, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary. Also, his ill-advised decision to return the bust of Winston Churchill to Great Britain while denying the existence of an Anglo-American special relationship. Finally, Obama’s congenital obtuseness to democracy’s virtues and dictatorship’s vices accounts for his derelict  disinterest in nurturing the strategic partnership that President George W. Bush initiated presciently with a decent, democratic India sharing U.S. interests in defeating radical Islam and ensuring China faces a robust deterrent to its imperial ambitions.

. . .

Read more:

About the Book:

Dangerous Doctrine Robert G. Kaufman

“Robert Kaufman brilliantly establishes what a devastating failure his amateurish grab-bag of progressive policies have been in the three key regions of Russia-Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia.”—Daniel Pipes, President, Middle East Forum

Much like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, President Barack Obama came to office as a politician who emphasized conviction rather than consensus. During his 2008 presidential campaign, he pledged to transform the role of the United States abroad. His ambitious foreign policy goals included a global climate treaty, the peaceful withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a new relationship with Iran. Throughout Obama’s tenure, pundits and scholars have offered competing interpretations of his “grand strategy,” while others have maintained that his policies were incoherent or, at best, ad hoc.

In Dangerous Doctrine, political scientist Robert G. Kaufman argues that the forty-fourth president has indeed articulated a clear, consistent national security policy and has pursued it with remarkable fidelity. Yet Kaufman contends that President Obama has imprudently abandoned the muscular internationalism that has marked US foreign policy since the end of World War II. Drawing on international relations theory and American diplomatic history, Kaufman presents a robust critique of the Obama doctrine as he situates the president’s use of power within the traditions of American strategic practice.

Focusing on the pivotal regions of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, this provocative study demonstrates how current executive branch leadership threatens America’s role as a superpower, weakening its ability to spread democracy and counter threats to geopolitical order in increasingly unstable times. Kaufman proposes a return to the grand strategy of moral democratic realism, as practiced by presidents such as Harry S. Truman, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush, with the hope of reestablishing the United States as the world’s dominant power.

Robert G. Kaufman is professor of public policy at Pepperdine University. He is the author of Henry M. Jackson: A Life in Politics and In Defense of the Bush Doctrine.

Reel Lincoln

Discovering the “Reel” Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was nominated for president on this day in 1860, the first step toward a legacy that continues to shadow those who have worked in the Oval Office since. 156 years later, Abraham Lincoln: the man, is remembered more often as Abraham Lincoln: the myth. With few photographs and even fewer audio recordings, it is difficult for the modern American to grasp our 16th president beyond the iconic speeches and cultural conceptions that loom large in our collective memory.

Even more influential are the countless speeches, poems, statues, songs, books, portraits, plays, and movies that have attempted to represent him. Filmmakers in particular have failed to agree on how to best represent Lincoln on the screen. In the modern era, movies have played the largest role in shaping public memory of America’s 16th president.

Lincoln before Lincoln Brian J. SneeIn the new book, Lincoln before Lincoln: Early Cinematic Adaptations of the Life of America’s Greatest President, author Brian Snee examines six influential screen representations—The Birth of a Nation (1915), Abraham Lincoln (1930), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940), Sandburg’s Lincoln (1974-1976), and Gore Vidal’s Lincoln (1988)—to reveal how our national perception and memory of Lincoln is adapted and commemorated. The way we depict Lincoln can teach us a lot about the man, and about ourselves. Lincoln’s life, politics, and his untimely death are not simply a part of history, but are also a part of America’s story and how Americans define themselves.

Covering more than a century of film from the silent era up to Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln (2012)—a film which, he argues, marks a seismic shift in the way Hollywood presents the Great Emancipator on screen—Snee shows how Hollywood has adapted the image of our greatest president on the screen, thus shaping and changing his image in the minds of all Americans.

In the following excerpt from Lincoln before Lincoln, Snee considers two of our most recent cultural monuments to the Great Emancipator:

Great Emancipator: Lincoln before Lincoln

In 2009, an unknown writer named Seth Grahame-Smith published what would become a best-selling cult novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The generic mash-up gave Grahame-Smith, who had earned a degree in film from Emerson College, his first real literary success. The book, which lists Jane Austen as coauthor, was quickly optioned by a major film studio, although today the project remains mired in preproduction.

Grahame-Smith next penned another future cult classic, one that Hollywood would waste no time in bringing to the big screen: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The adaptation was produced by Tim Burton and took the form of an action-horror hybrid that cast Lincoln as a secret assassin who battles vampires, destroying the creatures who feed on the blood of slaves, and with them the need for slavery itself. Although the film performed well in theaters, it was universally panned by critics, who objected not to its historical absurdity but rather to what they saw as a dearth of artistic merit. Whatever the critics thought, audiences loved it. After a half century without a major theatrically released film, Lincoln was back. And he was pissed.

Just four months after Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter appeared in theaters, audiences were offered a far more reverent Lincoln film. Rumors of a Spielberg-directed Lincoln picture had circulated in Hollywood for nearly a decade, ever since Spielberg had optioned the rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin’s 2005 biography, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. The film was scripted by Tony Kushner and starred Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln. The narrative focused on the final months of Lincoln’s life, including and especially the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, the end of the Civil War, and the buildup to Lincoln’s assassination. To say that it was an enormous success, both financially and critically, would be an understatement. The film was nominated for dozens of awards, and it grossed nearly $300 million.

file_569066_lincoln-movie-poster-08222012-110324For the purposes of [Lincoln before Lincoln], what matters more than the many stark and obvious differences between Spielberg’s Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is the one thing they share in common: a focus on Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. Beginning with D. W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation—an overtly racist film that laments the demise of the Confederacy and celebrates the formation of the Ku Klux Klan—Hollywood routinely minimized or simply ignored Lincoln’s role as the emancipator. Lincoln has enjoyed many incarnations: Savior of the Union, Great Commoner, and the First American, among others. Before 2012, Hollywood had celebrated them all but neglected one: Lincoln as the Great Emancipator.

Like the famous Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Hollywood subtly reinforced the notion that freeing the slaves was not among Lincoln’s most significant achievements. By accident or design, American movies and miniseries routinely left the emancipator on the cutting room floor while giving a starring role to one of Lincoln’s other manifestations. It was a century-long act of historical revision and powerful memory work likely to have shaped how several generations of American’s understood both Lincoln and his relation to race. And although it came to a very visible end in 2012, it leaves us to ask: How did popular movies and miniseries invite Americans to understand themselves and to remember Lincoln before Lincoln?


A Conversation with Bob Edwards

A Voice in the Box Bob EdwardsToday, radio legend and Louisville, Kentucky, native Bob Edwards turns 69. For thirty years, he was the voice of National Public Radio’s daily newsmagazine programs, co-hosting All Things Considered before launching Morning Edition in 1979. To celebrate, we are sharing an interview with Edwards—one of the most iconic personalities in modern broadcasting.

You’ve seen substantial changes in radio since you began your career. What is it that still makes radio relevant with the rise first of television and now of the internet? Do you imagine that radio will survive into the future and what might it sound like?

Radio adapts and re-invents itself as needed in response to the introduction of new media or other phenomena. It’s still the most portable medium that doesn’t require hand or eye contact. The pictures are better on radio because they’re formed by the listener (with help from us)—with the result that the pictures enhance the content rather than distract from it. Radio will continue to survive because it never loses its magic of intimacy. The listener believes the voice on the radio is talking directly to him or her. On TV, there’s no illusion that Jay Leno is talking only to you.

How has radio journalism changed during your career?

Radio journalism has changed for the better and for the worse over the course of my career. Sadly, journalism has disappeared from most commercial radio stations. On the positive side, public radio carries plenty of news programs and is producing them at a level of quality that radio has never known before. New technology has dramatically improved radio news reporting. Computers have replaced wire machines and typewriters, satellites have made long transmission lines unnecessary and improved the quality of overseas calls. Cell phones give reporters maximum mobility and have given even more immediacy to the medium that already was the most immediate.

You’ve interviewed over 30,000 people. Who have been the most memorable and what about them stood out?

My favorite person to interview is Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest in East Los Angeles who works with Latino gang members who want to go straight. He is doing extremely important work and he knows how to share his stories with a radio audience in a compelling way.

During your childhood, you dreamed about being in radio. When did it first hit you that you had realized your dream?

I realized my dream in 1968 at my first radio station—WHEL in New Albany, Indiana. I was 21 years old.

What was the most important lesson that you learned from Red Barber during your weekly broadcasts with him?

Red Barber loosened me up, took me off-script (not that we ever had one) and made me better able to respond to spontaneity. He had high expectations regarding preparation and professionalism. He built on what I had learned from Susan Stamberg about working with an on-air partner. Red also encouraged me to stand up for myself in the workplace and within the industry.

You’ve interviewed all sorts of people—politicians, artists, authors. How is each group different to interview? Can groups be categorized by any shared characteristics?

Politicians can be exasperating—especially if they’re wedded to repeating their “message of the day.” Athletes are dreadful and fond of clichés. Professors are often verbose, answer questions in outline form and expect to be allowed to continue until they’ve exhausted the entire outline. Writers and artists are in the communication business and generally understand that I’m aiming for conversation—not talk.

You’ve written a biography about Edward R. Murrow and his contributions to radio broadcasting, and you’ve said that he was influential in the development of your career. What is it about Murrow that makes him one of your radio idols?

Edward R. Murrow set the highest standards for integrity at the birth of broadcast journalism. He expected his employer to share his lofty values. It did not—and that cost Murrow his career.

You write extensively about your unhappy departure from NPR. Since then, your former employer has received its share of bad press and a full on assault to defund the media organization. What are your feelings about NPR today?

With newspapers in decline and commercial broadcasting increasingly shrill, partisan, and often irresponsible, funding for public radio is more important than ever. NPR and its member stations are a national treasure providing in-depth, award-winning news programs unavailable elsewhere in American media.

How can you compare starting a show at NPR with starting a show with SiriusXM? Are there similarities or differences between the two?

Starting anything new is exciting because you’re allowed to experiment and be daring. I joined NPR in its third year. I joined satellite radio in its third year. I’ve had the thrill of watching both of them grow and prosper—and it’s fun to share in that success.

What radio programs do you listen to besides your own, and what about them appeals to you?

I listen to the other programs on SiriusXM and on NPR. All the shows essentially do the same thing—they’re vehicles for telling stories. Still, they are all very different, so the variety of ways to tell a story would seem to be without limit.

Now that you’ve finished your memoirs, what’s next for you?

I plan on doing my show for at least twenty more years and then write Still a Voice in the Box.

Bob Edwards is the author of Edward R. Murrow and the Birth of Broadcast Journalism and Fridays with Red: A Radio Friendship. Edwards has been awarded the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award for radio journalism, a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting, and the Edward R. Murrow Award for outstanding contributions to public radio.

To learn more about his memoir, A Voice in the Box: My Life in Radio, and watch a trailer, visit our website.