Publication Date

March 1, 1999

Perspectives Section


In 1996 a group of professional historians met to organize the History News Service (HNS), an informal syndicate of historians seeking to improve the public's understanding of current events by setting those events in their historical contexts. Since then the HNS has provided important op-ed and other articles to the press and improved links between news outlets and the historical profession.

"Talking History" is a spin-off of the HNS. It was organized at about the same time with similar goals. "Talking History" is a 30-minute, weekly radio show now available by satellite through the Public Radio Satellite System. Its purpose is also to improve the public's understanding of current events by providing historical context, but it is also concerned with providing the public with a better understanding of history itself.

"Talking History" was begun by historians Bryan Le Beau of Creighton University and Gerald Zahavi of the State University of New York at Albany. The show now originates out of KIOS-FM in Omaha, Nebraska, with programming provided both by Creighton and SUNY Albany. It is available by satellite to public radio system affiliates throughout the country.

"Talking History" consists of several segments, including "This Week in History," "History in the News," "Historic Site of the Week," and "Coming Attractions." The two principal segments are a 15-minute interview with a professional historian on a subject of interest to a general, public audience and an op-ed provided by a historian with an eye toward providing historical context on an event in the news. "Talking History" often uses op-eds provided by the HNS.

"Talking History" addresses a wide range of serious as well as humorous subjects. Past interviews have included David Nasaw on public amusements, John Lewis Gaddis on the 40th anniversary of Sputnik, Jeffrey Wasserstrom on recent developments in China, Howard Jones on Amistad, Jefferson Rogers on motels, Lois Banner on American beauty, James Axtell on the Columbian encounter, Stanley Kutler on Richard Nixon, and Steven Watts on Walt Disney. Future shows will include Richard Slotkin on western gunfighters, David Cordingly on pirates, Ira Berlin on American slavery, and Douglas Brinkley on the Berlin airlift.

"Talking History" is a time-tested and highly regarded product of value to the historical profession and the general public, but its organizers still need your help. Check with the program directors of your local public radio stations to see if they have picked up, or intend to pick up, the show. If not, urge them to listen to the satellite feeds. There are many shows competing for a limited number of spaces on public radio stations, but few that offer what "Talking History" offers—a connection with history.

For further information on "Talking History," including satellite feed information, contact Bryan Le Beau, Dept. of History, Creighton University, Omaha, NE 68178. (402) 280-2652. E-mail:

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