I've loved radio ever since I was Rush Limbaugh's substitute host. Radio is more creative. You have more direct contact with people out there. The funny thing about TV is that you're sitting in a studio staring at a piece of glass — the lens. When you're on the radio you get interaction and you can be a lot more creative. I love that fact that radio has a freedom to it that you don't have on TV. It also plays to my strengths. I love doing creative stuff. I love talking about a lot of different topics. I love playing music — I am going to be playing music on this show. And finally, the intimacy with the audience — for instance, when people who've seen me on TV come up to me in an airport they call me “Mr. Snow.” When people who've heard me on the radio come up to me they call me “Tony.”
What part will listeners play in your new show?
Listeners are a huge part. The one thing I've learned is that you always learn from a listener. There are people who know stuff you don't know, they've had experiences you haven't had, they have seen politicians or historic events, and they share. The fact is that listeners are the most important part of any talk radio show. It's how you establish your connection with people all around the country. It's how you figure out if you're doing well or poorly. The listeners are really the core any good talk radio show.
How did you make the transition from a philosophy major in college to journalist?
You know it's funny; I was a philosophy major only because I couldn't figure out what I really wanted to do. I loved math and I loved English and I figured philosophy was down the middle. I always loved writing. I won creative writing and filmmaking contests in college. I would spend most of my spare time either playing music or writing (or goofing off and getting in trouble). The point is I wouldn't pull my chin and think deep thoughts. I just always loved writing. Then a friend of mine recommended me for a tryout for a newspaper job in North Carolina 25 years ago. That's how I got into the business. It was strict writing ability that got me there.
How did your time working in the White House affect your outlook as a journalist?
When you've worked in the White House you understand that it's unlike any other place. It's just different. It's got its own culture. It's got its own set of rules. It's got its own clock. You're living in a bubble. It's a bubble in which human history takes place. I was there for the collapse of Communism. I was actually the last person in the diplomatic reception line to shake hands with Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife three weeks before they were toppled from power. It gives you a sense of the history. To work in the White House is to suddenly figure out what a magnificent institution it is and also what a weird institution it is. It really does call on all your time, energy, and attention in a very concentrated way for however long you're there. Everybody who's ever worked in the White House, Democrat or Republican, we all get it. It's like a secret society. You get along and you help each other out. That's one of the dirty little secrets — people who've worked in the White House tend to be friendly across political boundaries because we've all been through the wars together. We know exactly what it's like, we've got sympathy for each other, and we've got great war stories.
Name one thing you absolutely couldn't live with out.
My wife. It's true. It's literally true. Let me see, what else could I not live without? Everything else is sort of a poor second!
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one music album, what would it be?
Oh boy! Oh boy! Somebody would just have to drop an I-Pod on there with about 100,000 albums and let me cheat. I cannot imagine being stuck with just one album.