Finding his voice
Guy Raz ’96 went from Brandeis to NPR
In the midst of incoming freshman, Guy Raz ’96 took his first step onto the Brandeis campus. But instead of locating his dorm, Raz headed straight to the Usdan student center, into a grungy, subterranean office where he began his undergraduate journalism career by writing an op-ed column for the Justice.
Since graduating from Brandeis, Raz, has worked as a host for NPR’s “All Things Considered,” as a CNN foreign correspondent and as a professor of journalism. Currently, Raz is working as the host, co-creator and editorial director of NPR’s “TED Radio Hour” and “How I Built This.”
According to NPR’s website, both shows have over 14 million monthly listeners. Raz has conducted over 7,000 interviews over the course his career ,including highly notable public figures such as Carol Burnett and Taylor Swift.
In an interview with the Justice, Raz shared some memories and advice from his career in journalism. Raz described the hardest interviews as ones with “people who are not accountable for their actions.” Though simple advice, Raz asserted that the best thing a journalist can do to ensure a successful interview was to “listen.” Raz explained that his best discussions have occurred when the interviewer was “willing to have their mind open.”
For those aiming for a future career in journalism, Raz offered this advice: “The most important thing that a journalist, or really, [someone] just going out in the world, should try to do is to be curious and follow your curiosity because that leads to discovery. Not everyone is passionate, but almost everybody is curious and curiosity is very important and a key element of being a journalist,” Raz said.
In Raz’s podcast “How I Built This,” he shares the “stories of founders and people who started things from scratch.” Not only can these tales inspire like-minded listeners who have unique ideas of their own, but they also let audiences see the inner workings of these revolutionary people. This program has allowed him to interview a wide range of people. Raz shared that the common characteristic he has seen among all successful people is optimism.
And after his long career in news, Raz shared how he came to launch the “TED Radio Hour.”
Raz said, “I was very interested in telling stories about humans and not about news. I did a lot of news reporting. I was a foreign correspondent, I covered wars, I covered conflict and, about 5 years ago, I decided I wanted to tell stories not about wars or conflicts, but about humans, about our human species, and that is really the beginning of the Ted Radio Hour.”
He described the program as a show not about people of a certain race, gender or age, but rather about what it means to be human.
“It’s about the species we call homo sapiens, common things that we experience: love, grief, the possibility to imagine the future, the ability to collaborate and empathize, these are traits that we alone have and that was what I wanted to do with the TED Radio hour,” Raz said.
The show is a collaboration between NPR and TED, the media organization that has capitalized on the age of social media and viral videos. “TED Radio Hour” launches longer conversation stemming from TED talks from all types of people and subjects.
For Brandeis students about to step out into the world, Raz shared one last piece of advice:
“My best advice would be to make an impact in the world, a simple thing you can do right now that costs nothing that can change somebody’s day or week or even life is to be kind because kindness in an unkind world is a form of resistance.”