Talk of the Nation host Neil Conan (NPR)
“Talk of the Nation” host Neal Conan (NPR)

Five years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend six months on the staff of “Talk of the Nation,” the first three as an intern, the next three as a temporary assistant producer. I can say unequivocally that I have a career in journalism today because of what I learned there.

Producing live radio is extremely intense — the best metaphor I can think of is delivering a baby. You make a plan, but anything can happen. A caller can tell you he has a question about tax subsidies but launch into a diatribe when he makes it on the air. Guests cancel, get lost and exhibit any number of behavioral anomalies that can transform a show into a high-wire act. Then, when things are finally in place, the president schedules a press conference, rendering moot all your best-laid plans.

Of course, when live radio goes well, it’s beautiful: a conduit for raw emotion, insight and connection. My favorite moments are when a caller shares something that challenges my assumptions.

The staff of Talk of the Nation treats its air time like the precious and limited commodity it is. They don’t produce what’s easy, they produce what they think will be best. You will be missed, Neal, Sue, Scott, Sarah — and the rest of the staff whom I haven’t met. Thank you for filling our days with good, often great, radio.

Here is audio of Neal Conan’s final sign-off today…

Transcript here.

  • Maui Mum

    If I could cancel my current and future contributions to NPR I would. But that would be cutting off my nose to spite my face. First Bob Edwards now Neal Conan. NPR…WHAT ARE YOU THINKING????? Too many talk show venues???? NOT!!!!!
    This is NOT a talk show. The American NPR listening public 6.4 million of us NEED this program. For shame…

  • Moderately_Disgusted

    It is a terrible day for the listeners to public radio. Why was the program axed? NPR’s explanation sounds hollow and unconvincing, especially considering the format of the new program is the same as Morning Edition/ATC, and Neal Conan’s leaving without being forced out hints at real problems behind the scenes. I don’t know what they’re doing at NPR hq, but I do not like it one bit.

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