Pulitzer Prize Winner Goodman Looks Back On Work

Ellen Goodman started out as a young reporter covering the women's movement. Now, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist is retiring. She looks back at the story she's covered most consistently over the last forty years: women.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman spent more than 40 years looking at the world, 750 words at a time. Goodman started out as a fact-checker and researcher back in the �60s, when women didn't get too many bylines. As a young reporter, she covered the women's movement - first at the Detroit Free Press, then at the Boston Globe where she started her column. She won the Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of women's rights, poverty, AIDS, presidents from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama. But tomorrow, her first column of 2010, will also be her last. She joins us in a minute to tell us why.

In her penultimate column, she wrote a retrospective on how far women have come since her first report on feminism back in 1969, and how far there still is to go. If you want to know what's in her final column, well, you'll just have to pick up the newspaper tomorrow. If you'd like to talk with Ellen Goodman, though, about something she has written or her long career in journalism, give us a call - 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join our conversation on our Web site, that's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, New Year's Eve superstitions. You can email us yours, that address again is talk@npr.org. But first, Ellen Goodman joins us now from member station WBUR in Boston. And thanks for being with us today on TALK OF THE NATION.

Ms. ELLEN GOODMAN (Columnist): My pleasure.

CONAN: So, that last deadline, have you written that final column yet?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes, I don't come quite that close to deadlines, although one of the things everybody asks you is, don't you have all these columns in your desk that you do weeks ahead?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: How far ahead do you write? Whole minutes.

CONAN: Whole minutes ahead.

Ms. GOODMAN: Whole minutes.

CONAN: After so long of doing this on a regular basis, was that last one hard to write?

Ms. GOODMAN: No. Of course, I'd been thinking about it a while because I'd been thinking about, you know, finishing up for a while. So, it wasn't too hard to write.

CONAN: And why now?

Ms. GOODMAN: Why not?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: When I sat down with my editor he asked me, of course, the same question and I said, you know, it's really hard to know when it feels like the right time. But this just feels like time when I'm lucky enough to still have a lot of good time ahead to do other things. And I've been doing this a long time, and I sort of thought, enough.

CONAN: So, reading that - not tomorrow's but the one before that, there's still a lot you're interested in talking about, particularly about the women's movement.

Ms. GOODMAN: Oh sure, and I hope to be able to do it in longer than 750-word segments.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: They do let you do that out there, right?

CONAN: Out there in the real world.

Ms. GOODMAN: Out there, right.

CONAN: Well, one of the changes that you noted is the enormous change in the business that you've been in. I guess you started in the typewriter era and what, do you ftp your columns in by now or email them?

Ms. GOODMAN: Just email, just email. That's right. I mean, it's amazing when you think - I've even thought about some of, you know, my anxiety dreams have changed technologically over the years. You know, those inevitable dreams where you can't get your column in, you know, and at first they were the Xerox telecopy and then they were the fax machine and then they were, you know, email. The anxiety remains the same but the technology has changed.

CONAN: Has changed quite a bit, and the place has changed quite a bit. You have probably spent a lot of your life in newsrooms.

Ms. GOODMAN: I have. I've been in newsrooms most of the 47 years that I've been a reporter. The last several years have had an office of my own, but the newsroom has changed both in terms of the sound and in terms of the energy and some of it, frankly, the hopefulness, the sense of being right at the center of things.

CONAN: One of the things that has changed is the percentage of women in that room.

Ms. GOODMAN: Absolutely. When I was at Newsweek magazine - which, you know, this really sounds like I walked four miles in the snow to school - but I started at Newsweek magazine in 1963, which was before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. So it was actually legal to discriminate against women, and Newsweek did. You could not be a writer if you were a woman. You know, I like to tell this to young people because they realize that women were discriminated against, but they don't always realize that it was actually legal. So, that was really an extraordinary difference.

CONAN: I wanted to read a paragraph from that column that we took from the Miami Herald on Sunday, December 27th. Today, half the law students and medical students are female, but only 15 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. We had the first serious woman candidate run for president and lose. We had a mother of five, a governor and a Title IX baby run for vice president as a conservative.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes. Should we applaud or should we deplore, as we say in the editorial world? I mean, I think there's a lot of mixed messages, and there's been a lot of lopsided change. A lot of us thought - well, a lot of us thought originally that the women's movement was kind of a 10-point program that would be over in a few years. But there was also this belief, always, that the women's movement walked on two legs. With one, you would kick open doors that were closed to women and with the other, you would walk through, transforming society for men and women. And, of course, it turned out that it was easier to kick down some of those doors closed to women than to do the transformation.

CONAN: Glass ceilings have proved to be more fragile than lasting change.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes. I mean, some of it is just - so many things happened simultaneously. One of the things that I also wrote about in the column, it just struck me as so ironic, is that the Equal Rights Amendment did not pass. And it didn't pass, in large measure, because people were concerned that women would end up in combat. And now in Iraq and Afghanistan, we've had a quarter of a million women serving. We've had 120 who died, and 650 were wounded. And we still don't have an Equal Rights Amendment. So the change, as I said, has been incredibly lopsided.

CONAN: We're talking with Pulitzer Prize winner Ellen Goodman. Her last column appears tomorrow - 800-989-8255. Email: talk@npr.org. And Kathy(ph) is on the line, calling us from Rochester, New York.

KATHY (Caller): Hi, thank you so much for the opportunity to say hello. Ellen, I just wanted to comment that years ago - I won't say how many...

(Soundbite of laughter)

KATHY: I was in grad school in Boston and read one of your columns where it was such a snapshot of human life that it has stayed with me lo these many years. It was - I believe you were at the airport and observed parents exchanging children after a visit. And you compared it to the turn in a monastery. And that image and the poignancy of that interaction, for me, was just one of the wonderful ways in which your writing has captured all of us all these years.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, thank you. That's as much as a writer can ask for.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: I appreciate that. It has been this - an era of such an incredible social change.

KATHY: Yes.

Ms. GOODMAN: And it's been a great beat to be on.

CONAN: Yeah.

KATHY: Well...

CONAN: I wonder, do you remember columns like that?

Ms. GOODMAN: Some.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KATHY: Maybe not that one.

Ms. GOODMAN: No, I do remember some of them. The ones I tend to remember, of course, the ones that were extremely personal to me.

KATHY: Yeah.

Ms. GOODMAN: And, of course, the ones that ended up as a collection or something.

KATHY: Mm-hmm.

Ms. GOODMAN: But I think most of us in journalism have a kind of, what, short-term memory. So, that we finish one and we're on to the next.

CONAN: News-heimer's(ph), we call it here, you know.

Ms. GOODMAN: News - well, actually somebody - there is a wonderful line that I took from another columnist who said that writing a column is like being married to a nymphomaniac because every time you think you're through, you have to start all over again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODWYN: This is not my style...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODWYN: ...but I thought there was a certain amount of accuracy to it.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Kathy.

KATHY: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye, bye. Let's go next to Daniel(ph). Daniel with us from San Antonio.

DANIEL (Caller): Yes. I have a question about an article I recently read on life science.com. It was in their articles about the top nine science stories of 2009. One of the stories mentioned about how the preferential treatment in schools over girls - girls over guys, and how this has led to more guys dropping out. And I wanted to ask her if she read - heard about the story, and her opinion if she did.

Ms. GOODMAN: I didn't hear about this particular story, although I've heard things like it. And it is true that six out of 10 college graduates now are women. Partially that's true because entry levels for - jobs for women tend to need more education. But I think in some ways, school has been a female-friendly environment. And we do need more male teachers. And now that I have a grandson, I'm probably even more conscious of that incompleteness of the social change, that lopsidedness we talked about.

CONAN: But this story in different iterations has been a hearty perennial of journalism as we cover talks about how - well, it was first that all the preferential treatment was given to boys, and girls were ignored in the classroom and kept quiet, then that boys were being - not getting enough - and this goes back and forth and back and forth.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, I don't think it's actually particularly true that boys aren't getting enough attention. But I do think, sometimes, that there isn't enough sort of - well, there isn't enough physical activity for either boys or girls. You know, there should be some more energy, particularly in the younger years, for kids. And there should be many more male teachers than there are.

CONAN: Daniel, thanks very much. Let's go next to - this is Craig(ph), Craig with us from St. Augustine in Florida.

CRAIG (Caller): Hi, can you hear me OK?

CONAN: Yep, go ahead, please.

CRAIG: Hi. Yeah, hi, Ms. Goodman. I feel very privileged to talk to you. I'm an A.P. language teacher at a high school locally down here, and of course...

Ms. GOODMAN: My condolences.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CRAIG: No, it's fun. I enjoy it. We actually have taught - we've studied and analyzed and deconstructed your piece "The Company Man" for many years and have enjoyed doing it, actually. But my question is more for a student of mine who has been accepted to George Washington University as a journalism major this fall. She leaves after graduation in the spring, and I'm wondering if you could perhaps give me some words of wisdom or advice that I can share with her as she prepares for not only her college career but after, a career in journalism.

CONAN: And we'll give you 30 seconds to do that.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well first, I'm a little appalled to be required reading, but never mind that. I think that having a job in journalism, despite all of the changes, is still a fantastic way to be - make a living observing your society and having a chance to use your voice.

CRAIG: Thank you.

CONAN: Craig, thanks very much, and we wish her the best of luck.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you, I'll pass that along.

CONAN: As long as she doesn't go into the radio talk show business.

CRAIG: Maybe so. That'd be great. Thank you.

CONAN: All right, bye-bye.

Ms. GOODMAN: As long as she doesn't go into the food-fight radio talk show business.

CONAN: We're talking with columnist Ellen Goodman. Tomorrow, her final column appears. And when we come back, we're going to have a special guest join us. So stay with us for that; 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. Ellen Goodman has been telling us what she thinks for decades now. She's won a Pulitzer for her syndicated column, which appeared in more than 300 newspapers since she began it back in 1974.

Tomorrow, you can read her last column. And she joins us today for an exit interview of sorts. And let's bring in another guest who has had, in many ways, an analogous career here at NPR.

Susan Stamberg was the first woman to anchor a nightly national news broadcast in this country. She's now a senior correspondent here at NPR News, and she joins us today here in Studio 3A. Susan, it's a delight to have you on TALK OF THE NATION.

SUSAN STAMBERG: Thank you very much, Neal. Hi, Ellen.

Ms. GOODMAN: Hi, Susan.

STAMBERG: Oh, it's so nice to hear you.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, it's nice to hear you.

STAMBERG: First things first: Thank you so much for all these years of sensible thinking that you spelled out in that column, just day after day. It's quite a phenomenon.

Ms. GOODMAN: Sensible, is that a good thing these days?

STAMBERG: What do you think? I do. Yeah, these days maybe not, but certainly when you started. And I remember talking with you - we've known each other on and off over the years - and saying to early on: My Lord, so often, I have no idea what I think. How do you have to get it together in your own mind to figure out what you do think about a national issue, an international issue, a feminist issue, whatever?

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, I think one thing I always fall back on is reporting. You remember reporting? Because I often start a column by saying, oh, what's going on in here? And then I set out to think about it and to talk to people. There are often a lot of people in the background of columns, many of them on the cutting room floor. Bless you for having forgiven me for that.

But you know, if it's a bioethics question or something that really makes your head hurt, I try to do some reporting. And then often, I just keep walking around the treadmill, or the world, until I've thought it through. I mean, you know, telling people what you think does, hopefully, begin with the thinking part. And that probably is the difference between column writing and what I just flippantly described to Neal as, you know, food fight - cable television networks.

STAMBERG: The difference between that and reporting, because that's a whole -completely different...

Ms. GOODMAN: That's right. I was a reporter for 10 years before I ever wrote a column. And you know, being a reporter, this is what happened, this is what the police chief said, this is what the other people said, period. But being a columnist, you get to say, oh, and this is what I think.

STAMBERG: Yes. But you know, what I think the great achievement is, and this is true of any really fine writing or any work of art, for that matter, all of us maybe have these senses or these sensibilities, whatever you want to call them, or leanings or inclinations. But we rely on people like you to give them language, you know, to give them a shape and a form that makes us say, oh, that's what I meant.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STAMBERG: And you really have been able to do that over these years.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, thank you, thank you.

STAMBERG: I remember walking into friends' houses, Ellen, past the kitchen, and in the days of actual newspapers, God bless them, seeing clippings of yours scotch-taped to people's refrigerators. They just tore them out of the newspaper and posted them up there like wallpaper.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yeah, there used to be magnets on the refrigerators, and now refrigerators aren't magnetized, so...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: Technology got us again.

STAMBERG: Listen, I'm still calling them ice boxes, so there you go.

CONAN: Well, I always thought sensible meant a heel of less than two inches, but anyway...

STAMBERG: Ellen, should we allow him to continue being the token male on the air?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: Definitely, definitely.

CONAN: Let's see if we can get another caller in on the conversation. Let's go next to Mary. Mary's with us from Prairie Village in Kansas.

MARY (Caller): (Unintelligible).

CONAN: Mary? Mary?

MARY: Yes.

CONAN: You're on the radio, Mary.

MARY: Oh, OK, great, sorry. I'm trying to do other things in the middle. Oh, it's wonderful to be talking to you, Ellen. I have seen you several times at talks and so forth. I also feel kind of like the first caller. I feel like we've been kind of in lock-step.

The question that I have has to do with one of my favorite columns, which came about - probably in the 1970s. And it was - it was on the subject of risk-taking, and you compared the fact - in the context of gender equality, the fact that we tend to protect our girls in the face of rape and other kinds of violence directed at them. But at the same time, they really need the risk-taking opportunities, the adventure, the exploration, in order to become full human beings. And I just wondered how you feel about that now?

Ms. GOODMAN: I still feel that way. It's tough as a grandparent because sometimes you just want to wrap your grandchildren in, you know, batting and protect them from everything. But I felt that way about my daughter and my niece and my stepdaughter - I felt that way about the young women in my life, and I struggle to feel that way about grandchildren, as I get older.

CONAN: Mary, thanks very much.

STAMBERG: Ellen, I wanted to ask you something. You and I are sort of contemporaries, although I am infinitely older, and I'm always glad to admit it, but we came up at a time in which I think we were raised to be good girls. Were you? I certainly was.

Ms. GOODMAN: I think I was, but the definition of good girl in my family might have been a little looser.

STAMBERG: What was it?

Ms. GOODMAN: We were definitely encouraged to argue at the dinner table - defend our positions, I should say. My father was a lawyer and a politician, and we definitely had to defend ourselves. And I think he encouraged a certain amount of uppityness and argumentativeness. And when I went on to college and then to - that was encouraged, too. Not college so much, I must say, since I went to Radcliffe at a time - when I went through Harvard education without having a single, single female teacher. So - but I think in general, getting out into journalism and in the world, I think I was probably always pretty opinionated.opinionated.

STAMBERG: You're lucky, too. It was very good grooming for what you ended up doing in life, as a matter of fact. But you're lucky with that because women who came up in the '50s very often were just in girdles all the time, you know, mental girdles as well as physical ones, rather conformist...

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes, remember the Merry Widow?

STAMBERG: Oh, good Lord. You know, I went on my honeymoon in one, and I thought it was such bad luck, I cut the widow off.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STAMBERG: Oh my, where did that come from?

Ms. GOODMAN: Blast from the past.

STAMBERG: But it was a different mindset for some of us. You were lucky to have that very rich, enriching background in which you were encouraged to express yourself.

Ms. GOODMAN: Yes, but you know, I think we also - it was the women's movement, also, that encouraged us because whatever our backgrounds were as children, I think this great, collective movement at a very crucial time in life - I think I - was 28 when I discovered the women's movement and that great collective energy and sense that we should - it was our time to be uppity.

STAMBERG: And also - remember that Ms. Magazine phrase, the shocks of recognition when you suddenly realized the other phrase, too, that the personal was mostly, most times, political. It wasn't simply something that was happening to you.

Ms. GOODMAN: That's right. And I think it's one of the things I worry about now with younger women, that everything has become - the idea now that you have to solve all of your problems on your own. And that was an idea that we had in the '50s and '60s, that whatever your problems were, of work or family or - were your problems alone, and I think that has somewhat recycled.

On the other hand, there have just been such enormous changes. In my own family, probably the story that sticks in my mind the most is my niece, who is - just tried - she's a reproductive rights lawyer, something that didn't exist, and she just argued a case before the European Human Rights Court, and she was seven months pregnant when she did, when she argued it.

Now try all of those things, and try to imagine that a generation ago. And it was really - I watched the Web cast, and I thought, now, there you go. That's tremendous. That's just a phenomenal change. Or for that matter, my daughter, who runs a women's comedy troupe. Well, that didn't - that wasn't really open a generation ago.

CONAN: Ann(ph) is joining us on the line from Summerville in Massachusetts.

ANN (Caller): Hi. I switched from the New York Times to the Globe in the mid-'60s, and there was an op-ed, top left of the op-ed columns was a man who I thought of as Mr. Duende(ph), and then there was - turned out to be the women's pages, which had a columnist named Ellen Goodman. And I thought for years that they should switch places.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ANN: And they did.

CONAN: Eventually, eventually. The women's page - there's something else that has gone by the...

ANN: That's when the obits were for Mrs. David Jones and Mrs. Ronald Brown and...

Ms. GOODMAN: If they were. Women didn't die in the paper, even.

ANN: Well, no, if they were the wives of physicians or lawyers, they died in the paper, I think.

Ms. GOODMAN: But that was in the days when we were still saying Golda Meir, grandmother of three, said today...

(Soundbite of laughter)

ANN: I've almost always agreed with your columns, and I've called my best friend when you came out with saying you were going to quit, saying Ellen Goodman's not going to write anymore. I could see why you might want to stop, but nevertheless.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, 47 years with a six-week maternity leave, well, yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: I don't think I'm a slacker.

ANN: Oh, no, no, no.

Ms. GOODMAN: No. I'm teasing you. I was just teasing.

Ms. GOODMAN: It was just sadness.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you.

CONAN: Ann, thanks very much.

ANN: Thank you very much.

CONAN: That memory raises a question, though, about your successors. And we talked about - well, Susan, I know you wanted to talk about this.

STAMBERG: I wanted to ask you about Anna Quindlen, who wrote those wonderful columns for so many years for the New York Times 'til she hung it up and started writing novels. We look to you for that, too, as well, Ellen. But how do you see the difference between the two of you? And did you know one another? Were you influenced by one another?

Ms. GOODMAN: Oh, sure, I know Anna. We know each other. We lived in different cities...

STAMBERG: Yeah.

Ms. GOODMAN: ...you know, we don't see each other often. But we have seen each other and exchanged views. And I always enjoyed reading her and still do enjoy reading her. And sometimes we wrote about similar things, and sometimes we wrote about different things. And I enjoy many of her successors as well.

CONAN: Is there - there does still seem to be a great many more men on the opinion page than women.

Ms. GOODMAN: There are. And there still have been, you know, this idea that, well, we have one. Or else, gee, we have one who is a progressive, so we need one who's a conservative, you know, that they search for some bizarre sense of balance.

STAMBERG: Huh. You know, it's interesting, though. There are certainly more women on the reporting pages of newspapers - and certainly, here at NPR. That's going to eventually make a difference to what you see on op-ed, should op-ed - wherever op-ed continues.

Ms. GOODMAN: You're right. Well - and, of course, there is - there are lot of women in the blogosphere. There are two women now anchoring network news. Of course, anchoring - network news isn't what it used to be, either.

STAMBERG: Right.

Ms. GOODMAN: But there are more women around, but there are still - it ain't 50/50, to put it mildly. It's still a relatively - it's still a minority.

CONAN: We're talking with Ellen Goodman. The Pulitzer Prize winner publishes her final column tomorrow. Of course, also with us is Susan Stamberg, NPR's special correspondent. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, coming to you from NPR News. Susan?

STAMBERG: I just wanted to say something to you, Ellen, that I'll never forget - sorry - from a column you did when your daughter was going off to college, and the way you ended it. And it's what - the way I'd like to end with you today. What you said to her, your last word was fly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STAMBERG: It made my cry

Ms. GOODMAN: And she did.

STAMBERG: It made me cry.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STAMBERG: I'm sure she did. And I say the same to you. Have the most wonderful flights in this next phase of your life.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you, Susan.

STAMBERG: And thanks for what you've done.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you.

CONAN: We have time for a couple more callers. Let's go next to Virginia, and Virginia's with us in Nashville.

VIRGINIA (Caller): Yes. Ms. Goodman, I'm distraught that you're leaving the print world of the weekly column, but I wanted to thank you for all of those wonderful columns you have provided over the years. I want to ask you about a column you recently wrote on fact-checking, and what you foresee as the future of fact-checking in print journalism.

Ms. GOODMAN: The column that I wrote about fact-checking was a screed against people who were just, you know, speaking out without thinking, really, and that there was no price to be paid in much of the media world for facts without -for opinions without facts. And I do worry about that. It's fascinating, when you think about it. For example, if you look at a newspaper and you see a column of corrections and it will say, we're so sorry that we called Mrs. John - that we called John Jones when his name is actually John H. Jones, you know?

So it's that level of smaller correction on a newspaper, whereas huge and sometimes deliberate errors are thrown about in - on cable television shows and in the blogosphere without any fact-checking. And I still very much worry about the importance of that.

I think there's an element of self-correcting. I think people start going to places that they learn to trust. It's a little bit like going to the Internet for medical information. If you have a disease, you pretty much start knowing which places to go for real information and not just for, you know, the swallow-Laetrile-and-you'll-be-fine information, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Virginia, thanks very much. And let's go to Mindy, Mindy with us from Charlotte, also in Virginia.

MINDY (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Oh, Charlotte, North Carolina, isn't it?

MINDY: Yes.

CONAN: Sorry.

MINDY: Charlotte, North Carolina. Thank you. I wanted to say that Ellen has helped me to appreciate my husband, because my husband loves Ellen's columns.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MINDY: And I figure, if a guy who could do that - can't be all bad. In fact...

Ms. GOODMAN: My husband does, too.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MINDY: Well, you know, but you know, sometimes we'll think they're kind of narrow-minded and ignorant, and then he'll, you know, read one of your columns and just love it. And so, one time he went so far as to say that if Ellen Goodman ran for president, he would vote for her.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MINDY: So I just wanted to say that you've had a positive influence on my marriage, and thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. GOODMAN: And you can rest assured I won't be running for president.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MINDY: Thank you so much.

Ms. GOODMAN: That's not my next act.

CONAN: Well, what is your next act? We have a minute left.

Ms. GOODMAN: Well, I'm - I have a bunch of things that I'm interested in. I am involved in starting something called the Conversation Project, which is to jump-start a national conversation on end-of-life conversations. And I'm also very much interested in taking some time off and seeing what crops up and what I want to do and what I want to write about. Writers write, but I want to breathe a little, put my feet up on the porch railing, have a summer off, enjoy taking some time to think about it.

CONAN: Ellen Goodman, happy New Year's. Thank you very much for being with us today.

Ms. GOODMAN: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Ellen Goodman writes her final column tomorrow. You can read it in your newspaper. She joined us today from our member station in Boston, WBUR.

Coming up, plenty of New Year's traditions are tinged with superstition. If you're opening your doors and windows at midnight or planning to eat black-eyed peas tomorrow, let us know. Email us your superstitions. The address is talk@npr.org. Or give us a phone call: 800-989-8255. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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