On Having the Looks for a Career in Radio


A prior RBC movie recommendation, The Ruling Class, included this strange and strangely memorable passage

I stand outside myself,
watching myself watching myself.
I smile. I smile. I smile.

I thought of those lines at the post-modern self-referential moment in which I took this photo. I was sitting in the television studio staring into a camera from which a host was going to interview me, but I couldn’t see him. I could however see in the monitor what he was seeing through the camera feed, including the fake background that was installed behind me, so I snapped a photo of myself watching myself being watched.

It is sometimes said that being on television is the American dream. I have to say that I am not sure why. I talk to journalists a couple of times in a typical week, and when it’s print or radio it usually comes easily to me because they are media that traffic in words, and I love words and feel comfortable with them.

Television in contrast is about images, including images that tend to overwhelm words. In the photo above, I was sitting under the klieg lights for 10 minutes waiting for the feed to link up. The lights dried out my eyes, which are generally dry anyway. In the televised interview, I look like a Viet Nam War prisoner trying to pass a coded message via eye blink. It’s so distracting that I am not sure anyone heard what I said.

My normal procedure for trying to get good at something is to closely observe people who are more skilled than I am. But because I don’t watch or even own a TV, this is a useless plan for progress. Maybe someday I will pick up TV skills on the fly, but more likely natural selection will run its course and I will ultimately spend my media time entirely in the world of words.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.