Every weekday as the sun comes up, Paul Gallo speaks over the radio with his "morning family" across the state of Mississippi on the Super Talk FM. From eight stations in Jackson, Hattiesburg, Brookhaven, Oxford, Tupelo, Corinth, the Golden Triangle and the Mississippi Delta, The Gallo Radio Show reaches nearly every county in Mississippi.

When I sat down with Gallo this week, three themes continually permeated our conversation: family, curiosity, and broadcast professionalism.

To Gallo, his audience is a family, his co-workers are a family, and Mississippi is one big family. His own family migrated to the Mississippi Delta from Italy along with 15 other families. His parents were first generation Americans who started as sharecroppers and eventually grew cotton in Shaw. Gallo worked on the farm until he graduated from Shaw High. "Back then you made a decision to go to school or go to work," and Gallo said he went to work at an auto parts plant in Cleveland. That job dried up and he decided to look for work in something he loved: radio.

Like many Mississippians before and since, Gallo's future took him on the migration from Shaw to Chicago: from a small town of fewer than 2500 to a metropolis of 3.4 million. He attended broadcast journalism school and began a career that brought him first to Batesville and later to Clarksdale as part of Birney Imes' Mid South Network. There Gallo met and married his wife of forty years. They owned a station in Drew before coming on board with TeleSouth Communications in Jackson in 1989.

Today Gallo is general manager, morning drive host, and oversees network programming. He gets to the studio by 4 a.m. for his 6 a.m. show.

"Talk radio has taken on many of the aspects of the newspaper business," Gallo explained, "and that requires a lot of research and sourcing. We've built up a great deal of trust on the morning show. When we put something out there, people know I have my facts straight. If I don't, I go out and correct it, but fortunately that doesn't have to happen very often."

Gallo has interviewed governors, senators and celebrities. Twice he interviewed then Vice President Dick Cheney. "I don't think about the power or the person. I'm just inquisitive. I'm like a kid in the candy store that wants questions answered. It's a job I'm passionate about and I enjoy doing. You don't think about the person until later and when you see him in the Rose Garden with the President and you think, 'wow, I just spoke with him.'"

Gallo said booking agents see the ratings and the reach of Super Talk and know the Mississippi market is no longer a tiny tower in a pasture. Bookers from Washington DC and New York City call to get their clients on the air to talk about everything "from marrying a goat to the top ten reasons we don't want health care."

Gallo said the only time an interview has really turned off his expected topic was recently when he thought an interview was on health care, but in fact it was an author pitching a weight loss drug. But Gallo, "curious as a kid" about what the guest was saying didn't bother to steer the conversation back to the topic, "I let it go because it was more fascinating than the original point."

I asked Gallo if he has ever felt personally threatened by anyone as a result of the sometimes heated political debate on the air. He raised two fingers and smilingly said, "Two things about that. No. Comment."

"People ask me how I can talk for the three hours a day. That's easy, the hard part is to get people to listen for three hours a day," Gallo said. He said research and content is important, but professionalism also requires a voice entertaining to hear, so he sometimes has to coax guests - not into saying something different, but into saying the same thing differently. Gallo explained, "I can feel vicariously when the audience glazes over, so sometimes I have to become a media coach."

As for himself, Gallo follows a few rules that he says broadcasters have used for decades, "Be yourself. Sometimes people call in and want to compare me to these other guys out there; but, I've known who I am long before I ever heard of these other guys. Be opinionated. No one wants to hear a lukewarm conversation. Agree or disagree, people want to know what you think. Share your personal side. I try to do that every morning."

"We've cultivated an audience that knows they're part of the family," Gallo said. "One thing I've learned from our remotes and various speaking engagements is our audience really is like a family, a family with one cause: less government, more personal responsibility."

Brian Perry is a partner in a public affairs firm. Contact him at reasonablyright@brianperry.ms.