Today is the final broadcast of Talk of the Nation on NPR, and I want to say thank you.
Ever since WNPR went to an all-news format host Neal Conan has been a fixture on our air. His show is what anchored our national coverage of breaking events during the middle of the day. It’s what we turned to for political news (and some laughs) each Wednesday with Ken Rudin on “The Political Junkie.” But most importantly, Talk opened up its phone lines every day to the interesting people across America who love public radio enough to call in and contribute their voices.
I was lucky enough to be both a guest (analyzing Connecticut politics) and a host (during Science Friday) on this show, and I learned so much. I learned that when you open up phone lines to brilliant people all across a brilliant country, you get better voices, ideas and insights than you ever could through traditional reporting. I also learned that Neal Conan possesses a set of rare gifts for those in my business, bringing a deft touch to the navigation of this national conversation. And, it’s hard work: Two hours of live talk – some scripted, but much not – every day. As he told me once during a visit to Hartford, the only way he could do it was to draw on his considerable experience – as a war reporter and onetime war prisoner, as a minor league baseball announcer – and to read everything he could. Listeners heard this curiosity and knowledge of the world coming out on air. Thank you for all you taught me.
To Executive Producer Sue Goodwin: Your passion for talk radio is powerful and infectious. Here’s to a next project that matches your level of enthusiasm for the work.
And to our dear friend Libby Franklin: You helped us make Where We Live what it is today, and we share our successes with you. Now, as your time on Talk of the Nation winds to a close, we’re right alongside you as you launch into the next big thing.
As radio scrambles to find new ways to “connect” with our audience, through Facebook and Twitter and “civic engagement” - Talk of the Nation proved that the simplest way to “engage” is to ask people to call you, then put their voices on the air.
I recently had a chance to ask Margaret Low Smith, NPR’s Senior Vice President for News about the cancellation of the show, and what it says about the talk radio format. She praised the work Talk has done, but said that in part, this decision came because so many stations like WNPR have developed great call-in programs like Where We Live. I appreciate that vote of confidence – but I won’t soon forget the show that taught us how to talk.