Former ‘Nightline’ Producer: ‘The better the listener you are, the better the product you’ll end up with’

By Alex Weprin Comment

Former ABC “Nightline” producer Dana Wolfe is interviewed as part of Mediabistro’s “Hey How’d You Do That?” series. Wolfe now runs the U.S. version of the Rosenkranz Foundation’s “Intelligence Squared” debate series. If you are an AvantGuild member, you can read the entire interview here.

How did your experience as a producer for Nightline prepare you for producing debates? 

I was highly influenced by Ted Koppel, who always tried to make Nightline a forum for civil discourse. I remember working, way back when at the Madrid Summit, where I used to see the Israelis and the Palestinians talking to one another, and that was never done publicly until then. At Nightline, I was always involved with all of the big town meetings around the world — that usually involves bringing two sides of a topic together to try to come away with some common balance. This idea of distinctive division and a passion for story telling is something that seems to be a thread throughout my career.

When you work for the best, you strive for the best. Ted was such a good listener. I’ve learned that the better the listener you are, the better the product you’ll end up with. My first day on the job at Nightline I interviewed someone and I got off the phone, wrote up my notes and I didn’t understand what the person had said to me. I spoke to the senior producer at the time and he said, ‘If you don’t understand them, and you want to put them on the air, how is the audience going to understand them?’ That was a big takeaway for me. It sounds kind of small, but if somebody cannot articulate their views in a way that you understand them, the rest of the public is not going to be able to either