The secret of Larry King's success is and always has been an open secret.
Ask short, sharp questions.
No editorializing. Certainly no grandstanding.
Be fair. Listen.
Don't over-prepare - that could drain natural curiosity. Ask whatever comes to mind, on the assumption that the same question popped into the mind of someone sitting at home. (To Lady Gaga: "Are you with men more or women more?")
Especially this - be consistent, always consistent. King's trademark suspenders, lavender shirts and horn-rimmed glasses seemed more like the sartorial accessories of a '60s-era Vegas croupier than a TV host, but they were distinctly, unutterably, Larry. Yet the world - as worlds tend to do - passed Mr. Consistency by. Nighttime cable TV news and most of its viewers shifted to the right (or left). In reaction, CNN floundered, then belly-flopped, taking King down with it.
As you watch Thursday night, of this you can be absolutely certain: There will never be another run like this one. And what an incredible run it was. Piers Morgan takes over in January; may he be half as fortunate.
Other interviewers talk about King
There is so much to say about Larry King. Here are four observations:
KATIE COURIC, anchor, "CBS Evening News" "He's as no-nonsense and direct with Lady Gaga as he is with Vladimir Putin. He's not a show-off or show-boater like a lot of interviewers. He asked simple questions everyone wants to know the answer to. And he's always stayed true to himself . . . the styles have changed in his years on the air, but Larry's style never has. You've got to love that."
FRANK SESNO, CNN anchor (1984-2001; 2005-09), now director of journalism and public affairs, George Washington University "Larry certainly put CNN on the map, and he changed media by his presence. People forget there was a lot of talk about 'new media' in the '90s, and they were talking about Larry. That's when candidates discovered they could go over the heads of yapping journalists and go to the welcoming talk show where they had an opportunity to get a more unfiltered message to the public. The cries of the traditional journalists inside CNN were piercing when Larry was interviewing 'their' candidates . . . but the fact is, Larry's form of interviewing can be powerfully effective."
DAN RATHER, anchor "Dan Rather reports," HDNET "He moved the genre of the television interview into a new era, along with a new style, a new way of doing it. He never claimed to be a newsman but said, 'I'm a talk-show host.' . . . He's on anybody's list of the best interviewers on television and a case can be made that he ought to be the first name on it."
MARK FELDSTEIN, former CNN correspondent, professor of journalism, University of Maryland "In those crucial early years of CNN, he was a powerhouse. He brought bigger ratings than anyone else back when CNN was still trying to be discovered. . . . These corporations have little historical memory - 'What have you done for me lately' - but he really mattered at a time when it counted the most."