Behind The Stories

Remembering Robert Conley, One Of NPR's Founding Newsmen

Robert Conley, the first host of All Things Considered. i

Robert Conley, the first host of All Things Considered. George Geesey/NPR hide caption

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Robert Conley, the first host of All Things Considered.

Robert Conley, the first host of All Things Considered.

George Geesey/NPR

"He got us off to a start and helped put in place the radio program you are listening to right now." - Susan Stamberg

Today All Things Considered pays tribute to the venerable newsman whose baritone voice was its first: Robert Conley, who passed away on Saturday, November 16, 2013.

More than 40 years ago, the veteran journalist switched on the mic as the host for All Things Considered's first-ever broadcast, that covered the widespread anti-Vietnam protests taking shape across Washington, D.C. Bill Siemering, NPR's first director of programming, recalls Conley's role in the May 3, 1971 program:

"At 5:00 PM the tape had not yet made its way to the control room. The host, Robert Conley, calmly filled [the air] for six minutes, until the documentary was finally cued and ready to roll."

NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg, who worked as a tape cutter during the news organization's early years, shares her own memories of Conley:

"He was a seasoned newsman with a deep barreled voice that was made for radio. But he didn't much like some of radio's requirements — like working within the program's time constraints. So he ad-libbed his introductions to reporters' pieces, rather than reading from a pre-timed script. Bob was marvelously articulate, but drove the director - it was Linda Wertheimer then - crazy when his ad-libbing put a news segment into overtime.

"His writing was superb. I remember, 40-plus years later, his description of the status of Vietnam peace talks in Paris: 'Trying to follow the Paris negotiations is like trying to keep track of a kitten, playing under a rug.'"

Hear more remembrances of Conley today on All Things Considered.

Robert Conley Returns for All Things Considered's 40th Anniversary



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