This week we’re jumping back more than 15 years to Alexandra Robbins’ June 2000 take on how journalists prep to be talking heads. Have you ever watched a cable news show and felt like the experts weren’t quite qualified to be expounding on the topic of the day? (Let’s be real, have you ever watched a cable news show at all?) You were probably right, and this is why. Robbins writes:

What if you don’t get it all sorted out before your views are broadcast into 20 million homes? You won’t be the first. “I don’t want to embarrass anybody, but sometimes people come in here and they’re not quite ready,” talk-show host Diane Rehm says carefully. Walk into the “communication room” minutes before Rehm goes on the air with her Friday “News Round Up” and you will see some of Washington’s top journalists poring over the day’s papers, speaking urgently into their cell phones, and doing whatever else they can to get the latest word on Rehm’s discussion topics. But sometimes Rehm introduces late breaking topics, and sometimes her guests just can’t get up to speed in time. In those cases, Rehm says that “Reporters will wing it with the Times or the Post or the Wall Street Journal sitting in front of them.” When one of Rehm’s guests recently blanked on a question, a co-panelist gave an assist by handing over a newspaper article on the subject.

You can read the full article right here.

Matt Connolly

Matt Connolly works for a labor union in Washington, D.C. Previously he was an editor at the Washington Monthly.