After 11 Years Behind The Host Mic, Neal Conan Signs Off

NPR's Neal Conan reflects on his 11 years of hosting Talk of the Nation and thanks some of the influential contributors to the show along the way. After 36 years at NPR, Conan signs off.

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And so it's time to say goodbye. As you probably know, this, after 21 years, is the final broadcast of TALK OF THE NATION, and after 36 years, my last day at NPR.

Before I go, there are some people to thank. First, my predecessors in this chair: John Hockenberry, Ray Suarez, Juan Williams and the many substitutes who allowed us time off.

There have been dozens of people on the staff over the years, the people whose names you heard after Letters on Tuesdays, the people who made this program happen. I can't begin to list them all, but I do need to thank the crew that held the ring with me these last few hard months. Tinbete Ermyas, Libby Franklin, Monica Bushman, Laura Lee, A.D. Quig, Jessica Reedy, Priska Neely, our editor Sarah Handel, director Gwen Outen, senior producer Scott Cameron, senior supervising producer Carline Watson. And we do not get on or off the air without our techs.

Again, we can't begin to list them all, but on their behalf, our thanks to technical director Melissa Marquis. And, of course, I can't skip Political Junkie Ken Rudin.

There have been only two executive producers in my time on the show. So let me thank Leith Bishop, wherever she maybe, and especially Sue Goodwin. On this program and others, she and I have worked together for many, many years. She, more than any other person, can claim credit for our successes. I will miss her dearly.

I need to thank the bosses who decided to start this show and to sustain it over more than two decades. I need to thank the member stations, and not just the more than 400 who carried this program, but all of them, all those stations who collectively support NPR and allow us to borrow their outlets to talk with people across the country.

And I need to thank you. We're told that more than 3.6 million of you listen each week. That puts TALK OF THE NATION in the top 10 of all talk shows in the country. The currency of broadcasting is that number, the quantity of eyes and ears that can be delivered to soap manufacturers and carmakers. To be honest, we do a little bit of that on public radio, as well.

But on TALK OF THE NATION in particular, listeners have voices, too. This program works best when we find ways to engage your stories about your jobs and your kids, you fears and your successes, about what happened in the drought, the hurricane, in the fire, in the hospital, at the job and at school, in Iraq or Vietnam.

Over all my time at NPR, I worked as a reporter, editor and producer. And as much as I loved all those jobs, the past 11-and-a-half years, this job has been the best. It's been an honor to talk with you every day.

I counted them up: 600 weeks. Give away time off for vacation, throw in all the special coverage, let's round it off at 5,000 hours. There is still so much to talk about, but that's going to have to be enough.

So, in a minute or so, I will go back to where I started in public radio. I will be one of you again, a listener. Yes, a listener-sponsor, but a listener-critic, too. I will cry and laugh and yell at the radio. And we listeners have a vital function. It is our job to hold member stations and NPR accountable.

So right here, I form my own private compact with NPR and my member stations. I will listen and, yes, I will open my checkbook, but I need some services in return. Go and tell me the stories behind everything that happened in the world today. Explain why it happened, and how it affects our lives. Do it every day. Tell me what's important, and don't waste my time with stupid stuff.

Bye-bye. Signing off for TALK OF THE NATION and from NPR News, I'm Neal Conan, in Washington.

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