These Hosts Have a Considerable Legacy to Uphold


Like so many other fans of National Public Radio’s afternoon newsmagazine, Michele Norris has sat in her driveway, transfixed by a story on “All Things Considered,” unable to shut off the car until the report is over.

Come Dec. 9, she’ll be the one on the other end of the radio.

Norris was named co-host of “All Things Considered” this week, joining NPR correspondent Melissa Block. Norris leaves ABC, where she was a Washington-based correspondent for “World News Tonight,” “20/20,” “Nightline” and “Good Morning America,” and joins NPR on Monday. She’ll go on the air Dec. 9, on the program heard locally on KPCC-FM (89.3) weekdays from 3 to 6:30 p.m. and on KCRW-FM (89.9) from 4 to 7 p.m.

“It’s one of the few places where you can discuss Los Alamos and Los Lobos in the same broadcast,” said Norris, who calls herself a long and loyal listener of the show. “The opportunity to help shape and guide a broadcast of substance and depth, it’s the highlight of my career.”


Also on Wednesday, NPR announced that its national security reporter, Steve Inskeep, will become host of “Weekend All Things Considered,” which airs on KPCC and KCRW from 5 to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

“Finding hosts for our shows is not always an easy task,” said Bruce Drake, NPR’s vice president for news and information. “The ‘All Things Considered’ jobs are demanding jobs, and there’s not a lot of people who could do these.”

But not a lot of people needed to because of the show’s stability. Robert Siegel, Noah Adams and Linda Wertheimer had co-hosted the weekday program for 13 years, until the network reassigned Wertheimer as a roving correspondent in January. Then in March, Adams went on sabbatical to write a book about the Wright brothers.

Last month, NPR officials announced that Block, their New York correspondent, would join Siegel in February to fill one of the vacancies, and now Norris completes the trio on “All Things Considered.”

The program, which started in 1970 and is the longest-running show in public radio history, reaches about 12 million listeners per week.

“The show is incredibly elastic, which is part of its success,” said Norris, 41. “They cover the news and then go beyond that, to bring a bit of whimsy into our lives. They bring all of these interesting people in my life and place them in the passenger seat next to me on the way home.”


Before joining ABC in 1989, Norris worked at the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post, where she won a Livingston Award and several other honors for a series on a 6-year-old living in a crack house. When she gets to NPR, Norris said, she wants to continue her interest in covering education and social issues, and said she has a “strange fascination with suburban life” and the suburbs’ new immigrants.

Drake said it was the breadth of Norris’ experience and body of work that made her stand out from the dozens of others considered.

“Her range is broad,” he said. “She’s comfortable reporting on everything from Washington politics to popular culture.”

And while NPR has long been a groundbreaking venue for women--Wertheimer was the first woman to anchor a broadcast network’s election night coverage, for example--Norris, an African American, becomes one of the network’s few hosts of color.

“We’re very pleased that Michele will bring diversity to the show, but it’s not something that would drive a decision like this,” Drake said. And, Norris added: “All newsrooms benefit from diversity of all kinds. I’ll do all I can to help bring new voices to the broadcast.”

“Growing up, I know what it’s like to turn on the TV and not always see people who look like you,” or turn on the radio and not hear people speaking from your same perspective, she said. So she wants listeners to “turn on the dial and hear something of themselves. I think that’s important, and I think NPR realizes that.”


Inskeep, 34, joined NPR in 1996 and has covered both presidential campaigns since then, several airline crashes, the Sept. 11 attack on the Pentagon, the civil war in Colombia and the defeat of the Taliban. He also has filled in as host on several NPR shows, but joked, “I’ve been reluctant to get into hosting, because it’s not like honest work.”

He succeeds Lisa Simeone, who left “Weekend All Things Considered” in March and now hosts NPR’s “World of Opera.”

“He’s really developed as an on-air presence,” Drake said, “and he’s a good interviewer, and he has a sharp and skeptical mind.”

Inskeep, who takes over the show Nov. 1, said he wants the weekend program to cover a broad base of topics, but added, “we have no choice but to focus on the looming war.”

“I’d like to know what’s on the minds of people in the Muslim world,” he said. But he also wants to cover less weighty topics “and do a story about Wilco, this really cool band that broke up.”

“That part of it is going to be cool,” he said, but the element that’s both thrilling and intimidating is, “you just cover everything. That scares me, in a way.”


While covering the Defense Department, he said, he’s attained a knowledge and comfort level that comes from focusing on a single beat. “It’s a little daunting to think you’ve got to have that expertise for the whole world.”

“It’s important to the network, to NPR, to make ‘All Things Considered’ a great program seven days a week,” he said, “and I intend to help them do that.”