Listen to what the person you’re talking to is saying. That’s one of the simple but important pieces of advice Lucy Nalpathanchil offers for having meaningful conversations on or off the air. The host of Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live has developed more than her fair share of listening skills in her 20-plus-year career as a radio journalist. She worked at public radio stations in Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Jacksonville before moving to the Nutmeg State in 2006 to join Connecticut Public Radio. A resident of Suffield along with her husband and two children, she’s hosted Where We Live for the past three years. The show broadcasts weekdays from 9-10 a.m. and is repeated at 7 p.m. (you can also download each show in podcast form).
How did you first get into radio and journalism?
When I was 12, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. But growing up in a small northwest Pennsylvania town, people didn’t listen to National Public Radio. The TV was the prime source of news. I was interested in broadcast journalism, but I had never really thought about public radio until I went to college.
A lot of us don’t get interested in journalism until much later. What attracted you to this world at 12?
I always enjoyed writing and I never had a problem talking. You can ask my parents; I always had an opinion about something. I just felt like it was my calling. My parents are immigrants from India, so growing up in the ’80s and part of the ’90s, you didn’t see a lot of South Asian faces on television. So I thought, “Wouldn’t this be great to break into television news?”
What do you like about being a journalist in Connecticut?
There are so many interesting stories because of the region, the fact of where we are, in terms of proximity to the big cities but also the history of New England.
You’ve done thousands of interviews over the years. Any that stand out?
Really, the shows or the interviews that stand out to me are when I’m just talking to regular people. And what I mean by that are people with interesting stories; they’re not politicians that have an agenda. I’m thinking back to an interview I did with Rabbi Philip Lazowski, who was a survivor of the Holocaust. He goes out of his way to educate people about what happened, especially children. I’m thinking about the various history shows that we do. Recently there was the 75th anniversary of the Hartford circus fire. Sitting down with survivors, to me it’s just so fascinating to hear their story. Those are the shows that people really respond to.
Do you have any advice for people either in radio doing interviews or just for people every day when they’re talking with people about sensitive topics?
I feel like if you take time to really listen and not try to infuse your opinions into the conversation, I think that’s a good way for people to really understand someone’s story, whether it’s for air or not. These days, we’re so used to offering up our opinion or wanting to set the record straight in terms of telling someone why you think they’re wrong. That’s not really productive. So just trying to be a better listener and being authentic.
Has your name been mispronounced a lot over the years?
At my first full-time reporting job in Buffalo, New York, my colleagues were older white men who were used to working in newsrooms that looked very much like themselves. There was a morning host who didn’t quite know how to say my name, and the news director had to tell him one day, “This is how you pronounce Lucy’s name.” And he was like, “What’s the difference?” Our names are our names. I would never use a pseudonym or change my name to make it easier for people, because this is the name that was given to me. My last name signifies where my family comes from in India.