A visitor can get pretty comfortable talking to Angela Davis about a wide range of topics. So comfortable, in fact, that time flies by.
That's what Davis said she loves about hosting a morning radio show at Minnesota Public Radio. Unlike her nearly three decades in television news, Davis said radio allows her to dig into issues through conversation — with newsmakers and with listeners.
Eye On St. Paul recently sat down with the longtime journalist and St. Paul resident to talk about the move from TV to radio, how she chooses show topics and what it's like being married to the boss, MPR President Duchesne Drew.
This interview was edited for length.
Q: How long have you been here now?
A: I started in November of 2018. And I went on the air in December of 2018. I spent a few weeks rehearsing behind the scenes because I didn't at that time know any of the mechanics of radio. Being in the studio, the audio board, the clock. All of that was new to me. So, I had an opportunity to work with the producers to practice some of the basic things for radio.
Q: Tell me a little about the difference between TV and radio.
A: The big thing that I have experienced, both as someone who listens to the radio and someone who hosts a talk show, is just the power of the human voice. Storytelling through audio. You really have to focus to listen to the words for the meaning of what somebody is saying.
I loved working with video. It's really powerful, but it can also be distracting. It can also be misleading. It doesn't necessarily tell you the full story.
[In radio], it feels very much like we're serving as companions. As a talk show host, I'm not here to preach to you. I'm not here to judge you. I'm just having a conversation with you. [She points to a nearby white board covered with topics to be discussed.] Our goal each day is to try to have open and honest conversations. We're trying to just really capture how people are living their lives.
Q: How do you decide the topics?
A: We're constantly brainstorming. I refer to this idea board, we keep updating. There are three show producers and myself. We all have different experiences. We're different ages. We're different races. We grew up in different places. And we're just always in conversation about what's happening. And then we think about who would advance the conversation. We want people to walk away thinking that they've learned something.
Q: Is it rewarding to know you're sparking conversations?
A: Yeah. It is. A lot of times, we don't know the impact of a conversation that we've had. But I've had people write to me because they heard someone else tell a story and it got them to do something. Like finally go to the doctor. Or to read a book.
We talked about her January trip to South Africa, about stories she is working on after several interviews and visiting sites there, including Soweto Township and Robben Island, where the late Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
Q: Tell me about your background.
A: When I was walking through Soweto, it kind of reminded me of where I grew up. I grew up on a farm in southern Virginia. My mother was the oldest of eight kids and she went away to college. Her sophomore year of college, she got pregnant with me. She brought me home and my grandparents raised me. I was like their ninth child.
My childhood and my summers were working in a tobacco field, playing with my dogs, reading and going to church. My grandfather was a minister.
My grandmother taught me how to read before I went to kindergarten. So, when I started kindergarten, I was already one of the more advanced students in class. It remained that way all the way through high school.
Q: Where did you go to college?
A: University of Maryland. Where my daughter is right now.
Q: Were you a journalism major?
A: Yes. I got a four-year journalism scholarship from the Baltimore Sun.
Q: What was your first job?
A: CNN in Atlanta. I had a job offer from the Sun to be a night cops reporter, which I didn't want to do. During the school year, I'd done internships at television stations, including one in the Washington bureau of CNN. Those folks recommended me for Atlanta. [Davis worked in television news from 1990 to 2018.]
Q: Why the change from TV to radio?
A: I turned 50; I was like, 'I'm bored." I don't like being bored. I like being challenged. I like leaning into things I kind of fear. And I like growing.
I wanted to do something that had more impact. I became a wife and a mother here. I've grown here. And I really, really wanted to give back in a more meaningful way. This position was open, and I was like, "Well, that could be it."
Q: What's it like to work for your husband? You started here before he did, correct?
A: Yes. So that's the thing about Duchesne — working with him feels very natural to me because we've been a team. We got married in our late 20s and he has been my closest friend for more than half my life. We've always worked together — at home as parents, as a couple socially.
In our jobs here at MPR, we have very little interaction. He's upper-level management. I create content, as we like to say.