New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards Grand Jury Confidential series profiles NYF’s award-winning Grand Jury members. These world-renowned radio professionals are recruited from all facets of the radio industry to select the World’s Best Radio Programs℠. In this Grand Jury Confidential, NYF gets up close and personal with Carole Zimmer, Journalist & Host of the podcast “Now What?” which explores how to navigate life’s big decisions and transitions.
Ms. Zimmer’s career includes stints at Bloomberg Multimedia as a digital video and television producer, as well as a radio reporter for 15 years. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Edward R. Murrow award for her radio documentary “Stalking a Silent Killer.” Before joining Bloomberg, Ms. Zimmer worked at NPR and the CBS and NBC radio networks. She has been a contributor to the New York Times, Washington Post, Harper’s and other publications.
In the interview below, Ms. Zimmer shares her early beginnings in radio, her evolution in the radio biz, what qualities are most important, what she’s working on now that she’s most proud of, and much more.
New York Festivals: Tell us a bit about your evolution in the radio industry?
Carole Zimmer: After 5 years of hosting “A Woman’s Place,” I became a news reporter at
WPLJ, covering local politics and City Hall. But my assignments were unusual. Instead of asking Mayor Ed Koch about the finer points of the budget, I had to call out questions that would be of interest to younger listeners like “Did you ever smoke pot?” In those days, marijuana was not a subject you discussed with public officials in crowded news conferences. But Mayor Koch had an answer for me. “I tried it once,” he said. “Didn’t like it and never smoked it again.” His answer, which wound up in the headlines of several local newspapers, became my signature moment at City Hall. Later, I moved on to reporting jobs at WABC Radio, the ABC Radio Network, WNYC and National Public Radio before becoming the New York Correspondent for the NBC Radio Network and the Mutual Broadcasting System. My duties at the networks included covering the UN and filling in for the White House reporter. My best assignment ever? Accompanying Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton on their summer vacations to Martha’s Vineyard. Would could be better than reporting on world politics from one of the finest sandy beaches on the planet? At Bloomberg News I became a television producer, learning new skills and new ways to tell stories. In the end, this business is all about telling stories in ways that inform, inspire, entertain and illuminate the human experience. What a wonderful line of work to be in.
New York Festivals: What qualities are the most important to have?
Carole Zimmer: When I began my career, I didn’t fully appreciate that you must take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and be grateful to the people who extend a hand. I now count gratitude along with creativity, patience, flexibility, hard work and the willingness to do what’s needed as important steps to building a successful career. It also really helps to like the person who’s in charge of your life at work. If you can make a genuine connection with your boss and he or she becomes a mentor, that person can wind up being instrumental throughout your work life. Now, I’m at the point where I am pleased to be a mentor and help guide people to make good decisions and hopefully do their best work.
New York Festivals: What are the hallmarks of award-winning radio programs?
Carole Zimmer: The best radio programs bring you along with them. Through the use of sound, they transport you to the place where the story is happening. You can see the action, get inside the characters. The best work activates the listener’s imagination. I still
remember a story that John Hockenberry produced for NPR about a DJ who had Tourette’s syndrome. As Hockenberry followed his character around, the listener peeked into his life, a fly on the wall. We were with the DJ in his worst moments when he began stuttering and cursing, struggling to control himself. And then we witnessed the most remarkable aspect of his character. When he was on the air, he was always able to maintain perfect control. It was only after the red mic light went off and he pushed open the heavy studio door to re-enter the non-broadcast world, that his Tourette’s regained control.
New York Festivals: What is your most recent project that you’re most proud of?
Carole Zimmer: The most recent project that I’m proud of is a podcast called “Now What?” It’s about big life decisions, transitions, how to re-invent yourself, inspiration and how we wind up navigating all those curves in the road.
The first episode features someone who has changed the world for women and keeps on changing it. We got to spend an afternoon with Gloria Steinem shooting the breeze in her cozy Manhattan brownstone. We went into her closet and checked out her black motorcycle jacket with the spikes, talked about mortality, Ms. Piggy and all the things that make Gloria Steinem laugh. “At Home With Gloria Steinem” was honored with a 2016 Gracie Award for Original Online Programming.
Other “Now What?” episodes include a conversation with comedian Robert Klein, who’s been doing stand-up for 50 years and is often called the comedian’s comedian and actress Karen Allen. Allen starred as Marion Ravenwood, Harrison Ford’s love interest in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and is a master of re-invention. She opened a yoga studio and started her own textile company, making cashmere sweaters on a Japanese knitting machine. Now acting
is back at the center of Karen Allen’s life at the age of 64.
You can listen to “Now What?” at http://www.carolezimmer.com/podcast/