School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

Conservative talk show producer speaks at UM School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: April 9th, 2019 by ldrucker

A conservative radio talk show host and producer spoke at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media Tuesday sharing storytelling tips and his political beliefs.

Lee Habeeb, vice president of content development for Salem Radio Network, hosts “Our American Stories,” a program that airs on more than 200 radio stations across the country.

He was the co-creator and executive producer of The Laura Ingraham Show, a radio show hosted by conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, who also had a television show on Fox.

Habeeb led a class talk called “Stories Matter: A Talk With Lee Habeeb, Creator and Producer of Top Talk Shows in America” Tuesday, April 9, at 8 a.m. in Farley Hall.

“Storytelling,” Habeeb said. “It’s what I’ve done for a living. And when I told my dad that was what I wanted to do, he thought I was crazy because Lebanese people own businesses. That’s what we do. We buy stuff and we sell it.”

Habeeb said storytelling is the art of listening. You’re not always going to like what you hear, but he said listening is important.

Habeeb has spoken at talk radio industry conventions and written columns for USA Today, Newsweek and National Review.

Habeeb said what he has learned about storytelling – the beginning, middle and end – sounds simple, but it’s not.

“The beginning should be really, really short, like life itself,” he said. “As we look at our life backwards when we’re 80, we don’t really recall the first three years of our life, let alone the first seven or eight. The most formidable part of our time probably starts in our early teens and goes straight up to our 60s. The rest is sort of memory.”

The short beginning should grab people’s attention, he said.

“The middle should be very long, just like life, really long. And the end should be, hopefully and pleasantly, short, as we all hope to go out … dying doing something we like … real sudden.”

Storytelling should have properties like life itself, he said.

“So then the question is: What do we tell stories about? And that’s for you to think about. That’s all journalism is. It’s storytelling. Who? What? Where? and Why? And I’m always really concerned with the why. What motivates people to do what they do?”

As a writer for Newsweek, Habeeb said he is paid per view, or based on the number of views his stories receive, so it is important to be a good storyteller.

“My life is to write something for Newsweek that people will click,” he said. “And if they click it through a few pages, I get paid a lot. And if they don’t click it, I’m fired.

“And I like that because I can’t be a victim in that universe. There are standards, and I have to entertain or amuse people … The joy of life is that if you write something interesting and compelling, it migrates and finds itself into other places, and then you get paid again. The key is finding a good story.”

He encouraged his audience to “have friends who disagree with them, and love them, and have a dialogue with them.”

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