By Anna Lothson
When Oak Parker Steve Edwards was just 2, he would introduce himself as Morris Kay, a candidate for Kansas governor in 1972.
That may explain his career move four decades years later.
Now 41 and the host of his own afternoon talk show on Chicago Public Radio's WBEZ, Edwards has announced he'll be moving on to a new post as deputy director of programming at the University of Chicago's new Institute of Politics — a non-partisan public service institute led by David Axelrod, himself a former Oak Parker and now a senior advisor to President Barack Obama.
"I have been fascinated with politics and public policy for years," Edwards said in a phone interview last week. "Most of my early experiences [reporting] were covering politics."
He said leaving the station and his colleagues was a tough decision, but joining the newly created institute at the university was an opportunity he couldn't pass up. Regardless of what side a person stands on, he said, conversations on public policy and political discourse need to expand.
"I've been motivated by a desire to understand what motivates people to try and create dialogue that gets to a deeper understanding of not just what divides us but what unites us," Edwards said. "One of the things I'm hoping is to help create different types of conversations."
He said the institute will build on the values and mission of what got him interested in public radio, which includes providing context and understanding of the world around us. Edwards' mode of delivery will change, but his chance to influence others remains the same.
"One goal of the institute is to try and cultivate the next generation of policy leaders and policy makers — to expose them to ideas and real-world experiences," he said. "I think there is a real opportunity for this institute to be a part of modeling and leading those kinds of conversations."
Still, leaving a radio station focused on local programming, a rare gem in the industry today, is going to be tough for Edwards when he finishes at WBEZ on Sept. 21.
"This has been one of the greatest joys," he said of working on "The Afternoon Shift," a program that debuted only in February. "I've had the chance to work with a team of creative journalists and producers from the ground up. We've really been able to produce shows and segments of information that are powerful and relevant."
Though local media reports about Edwards' departure noted the hole he's going to leave, Edwards remains modest about his role at the station.
"I don't think this show or any show that I've been part of has been about me," Edwards said. "It's about what we can learn, what can we learn about the world around us — about the human condition."
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