With his measured, reasonable voice and always-thoughtful interviews on KQED’s “Forum,” Michael Krasny has earned his loyal fan base of National Public Radio devotees.
Friday, as the broadcast journalist celebrates 20 years at “Forum” — the mayor has declared Feb. 15, 2013, “Michael Krasny Day” in The City — he will be the guest in his 10 a.m. slot, being interviewed by co-host Dave Iverson on 88.5 FM.
“Forum” boasts an illustrious guest history, including President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and countless other politicians, public figures and authors — including poets, journalists and big-name novelists.
But Krasny is careful not to declare favorites.
“There are people who have come on the air, who I thought for sure I wouldn’t like,” Krasny says. “My quiver will be full of arrows, ready to go after them. Like Pat Buchanan — who I think is an odious man — was very pleasant and charming to talk to. That took me off guard. There have been instances like that, where you have a preconceived notion of someone before you talk to them, and the rhythm of the interview begins to unfold and reveal a different image of them.”
A Midwest transplant, Krasny came to the Bay Area in the early 1970s when he got a job at San Francisco State University, where he still teaches literature. Ironically, he got the idea to work in radio after a frustrating, bizarre television interview with literary libertine Gore Vidal, an episode he documents in his 2007 memoir, “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life.”
“He had a lot of hauteur and arrogance and was somewhat drunk,” Krasny says. “I called it a baptism of fire. It made me realize that this is not always going to be a fun or satisfying task.”
Krasny has tackled just about every topic imaginable on his show. In just one week recently, he discussed marijuana law, online dating, military drones, Richard III’s bones and earthquake retrofitting.
Among the most well-prepared interviewers around, he is constantly reading books by upcoming guests (and also for his course at SFSU). But he isn’t opposed to the odd thriller or entertainment update.
“When I take a vacation, I read Tom Clancy or ‘Gone Girl’ — stuff like that,” Krasny admits. “I like schlocky stuff. I read People magazine. Some people associate me as some ethereal intellectual, and they don’t see this as part of my periscope, but it is. Gossip is interesting if you’re curious about people, and I have a capacious curiosity about people.”
Forum airs Monday through Friday on KQED at 88.5 FM at 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.