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'Political Junkie' Fuels Inauguration Talk With Fun And Politics On The Same Stage

On Wednesday evening, NPR's fast-talking "Political Junkie" segment headed out of the studio and on the road (well, down the street to be exact) and brought the show to a live audience. The interactive show could not have met a more enthusiastic crowd, with residents of the nation's capital gearing up for an atypical weekend: the Presidential Inauguration.

A weekly staple on NPR's Talk of the Nation, "Political Junkie" strums up intelligent, informative political discussions during the midday news-talk program, with NPR's political know-it-all Ken Rudin dousing his wealth of knowledge with humor and serves it to listeners with a side of games, quizzes, and trivia.

NPR Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg on stage at the Sixth & ISynagogue for a pre-inauguration Political Junkie Road Show. i i

NPR Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg on stage at the Sixth & ISynagogue for a pre-inauguration Political Junkie Road Show. Madhulika Sikka via Instagram hide caption

itoggle caption Madhulika Sikka via Instagram
NPR Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg on stage at the Sixth & ISynagogue for a pre-inauguration Political Junkie Road Show.

NPR Legal Correspondent Nina Totenberg on stage at the Sixth & ISynagogue for a pre-inauguration Political Junkie Road Show.

Madhulika Sikka via Instagram

While this week's live show followed Rudin's commitment to snark-less, political fun, Host Neal Conan's thoughtful discussions with newsmakers and journalists brought the show back down to earth; a reminder that, with too much "focus on pomp and circumstance," he said, "sometimes we don't remember the [inaugural] speeches."

This Political Junkie Road Show event seamlessly incorporated Talk of the Nation's focus on introspective, reciprocal conversations by alternately engaging with the audience during discussions with guest panelists; during trivia games (like Rudin's Scuttlebutton quiz); and through conversations on Twitter. Guests included political journalists such as NPR Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg, former presidential speechwriters and members of Congress representing both sides of the aisle. They looked back on past elections while gazing ahead to President Obama's second term.

Stating that "people don't just want fact-checking, they want truth-checking," panel participant Eric Deggans of The Tampa Bay Times highlighted what he sees as the growing necessity for grassroots conversations, as Americans increasingly customize their news appetites according to their own beliefs. Another panelist, Rep. Rick Nolan (R- MN), noted the need to bring respect into political conversations, and to rediscover "unity" across partisan lines.

Getting back to Talk of the Nation's contemplative roots, Wednesday's show left the lingering reminder of what the President's upcoming inaugural address signifies on a national scale - a speech that, not only captures the president's philosophy, but as guest Michael Gerson put it, "Puts our moment in the context of the great American story."

So whether you're camped out on the National Mall or ringing in the next chapter of American history from someplace a little warmer on Monday, we hope you are listening and talking about what matters to you moving forward. You can even share your thoughts about what you want the President to remember in his second term in NPR's "Dear Mr. President" interactive.


Olivia Weitz is an intern with NPR Audience Insight and Research, who recently moved to D.C. from the Northwest. She describes the NPR audience as informed and always wanting more.

Cara Philbin is a publicist at NPR and a regular contributor to the This is NPR blog.

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