In late March, NPR announced that it will discontinue production of Talk of the Nation at the end of June. Over its 21-year run, Talk of the Nation has made a powerful contribution to public radio and set the standard for high quality call-in talk programming. The show also created a model that spurred many public radio stations around the country to launch their own call-in shows, like JPR’s Jefferson Exchange.
When Talk of the Nation was created more than two decades ago, at the time of the first Gulf War, call-in talk programming was still new to public radio. Over the ensuing years, the program built a large and loyal audience — covering breaking news from 9/11 to the shootings last December in Newtown, Connecticut. Listeners valued Talk of the Nation for the depth of its coverage, the caliber of its guests and the richness of the conversation.
I first heard Talk of the Nation when I was in the San Francisco Bay Area listening to KQED. I was amazed at the breadth and expertise of the listeners who called into the program. There seemed to be no end to the diversity and number of scientists, technologists, teachers, artists, business experts, health care professionals and civic leaders who gave citizen perspective and regional dimension to the topics being discussed. In listening each day, I also remember feeling proud of public radio as an institution. In response to the proliferation of radio talk shows that were making huge waves in the media world with self-important hosts telling people what to think, Talk of the Nation distinguished itself as a fact-based, journalistically-balanced interactive program that challenged people to think for themselves.
After 35 years at NPR, 11 of them at the helm of Talk of the Nation, Neal Conan, has decided to step away from the grind of daily journalism. He hopes to write a book and spend more time in Wyoming. With Conan’s departure, NPR has decided to focus its news resources on an expanded two-hour version of Here and Now, a program that will be produced in partnership with WBUR in Boston. Here and Now host Robin Young, who has earned both an Emmy and Peabody award, will be joined by co-host Jeremy Hobson, current host of the Marketplace Morning Report and a former producer of All Things Considered and Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! JPR currently airs the one-hour version of Here and Now at 10am on our News and Information Service.
As we look forward to continued excellence from the new Here and Now, we salute the dedicated team of NPR journalists who have made Talk of the Nation part of our lives, skillfully covering the most important news of the past two decades with the depth and extraordinary insight that has become public radio’s hallmark.