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NEAL CONAN, host:

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

Most weekday mornings, Carl Kasell awakens us with news of flood, famine, fire and war. And somehow, the man who delivers that daily diet of disaster has become not just trusted, but beloved.

Today, as Carl Kasell prepares to sign off after three decades writing, arranging and reading the news on NPR's MORNING EDITION, he joins us here in Studio 4A with a room full of his colleagues. Over the course of the hour, we're going to hear from several notables he's worked with over the years, and we want to hear from you. We will stipulate that many of you greatly admire his work and his work ethic. So, let's skip over that part. We do want to hear how - what Carl has done and said has changed your life. Tell us your story.

Our phone number is 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION. And Carl Kasell, it's a pleasure to welcome you to TALK OF THE NATION.

CARL KASELL: Thank you, Neal.

(Soundbite of applause)

KASELL: Good to be here.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: And we should note that Carl is going to continue as an ambassador for NPR around the country and as the official scorekeeper on WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME. A bit more on that later. But Carl, you've been a newscaster most of your adult life. Why are you stopping now?

KASELL: Well, after getting up at 1:00 o'clock in the morning for all these years and even before NPR was getting up early in the morning at a news station in Arlington, Virginia, and even before that I was getting up early in the morning at a station in Alexandria - but all through my 59 years in this business, I have gotten up early in the morning, around 4:00 o'clock or so, to open up a radio station or go to work there. But here at NPR with MORNING EDITION going on back 30 years ago, I had to get in earlier.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: Because I couldn't just rip it off the wire machine and then read it as I did before. I had to write it myself. So much of what is done in that newsroom in the morning, the newscaster is - as a matter of fact, all through NPR - is preparation.

CONAN: Hmm.

KASELL: And you just don't wait around for somebody else to prepare it for you. You've got to do it yourself.

CONAN: So after all that time getting up early in the morning, it's time to sleep in.

KASELL: Time to sleep in.

CONAN: All right. I think you've earned it. It is your professional responsibility to sound impassive as a newscaster, but over the years, some stories must have moved you more than others. Do you remember some that - some moments in where it was just difficult to read the copy?

KASELL: Not really, because many of these stories that come along which are very big, like a 9/11 or the wall going down in Berlin, stories like that, which do have a big impact in which you do have feelings about, I find that you're so busy putting the story together to put on the air, you don't have time to think about that. It comes through you and hits you after you finish your shift and you go home and think about it then. Then it's when it really has a�

CONAN: The emotional impact actually strikes you when you're back in your own living room and your own kitchen.

KASELL: Sure, right.

CONAN: That's interesting. Obviously, our guest is Carl Kasell. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. We'll start with Sydney, Sydney with us Edwardsville in Illinois.

SYDNEY: Hey, how are you doing, Neal? What's going on?

CONAN: Oh, not much. We're just saying hi to Carl, here.

SYDNEY: How are you doing, Carl?

CONAN: Fine, thank you.

SYDNEY: You know what? I want to congratulate you for your many years in radio. I have to tell you, I started at the radio station you've started at, WGBR, 1150 AM in Goldsboro, North Carolina.

KASELL: Are you from Goldsboro?

SYDNEY: I'm not from Goldsboro, but it was a part-time job for me while I was in the military.

KASELL: Ah.

SYDNEY: And I was since retired. But�

KASELL: All right. OK. Who was the station manager when you're there?

SYDNEY: Ooh, good - Rick Hollenbeck(ph), as a matter of fact. Rick Hollenbeck. Yeah.

KASELL: OK, yeah. Vaci Volkem(ph) was my station - my manager, station manager and the guy who gave me my first job in the business, too, by the way.

SYDNEY: Is that right?

KASELL: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

CONAN: Sydney, I have to ask if WGBR launched you on a 50-year career in radio?

SYDNEY: Oh, no, no, no. I wish it had.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SYDNEY: It gave me a running start, though. I would love to go back in the radio. I absolutely loved it. I love to talk in radio. And I have to tell you that the memories of Carl Kasell are still very vivid at 1150 WGBR. He was a mainstay there. He was the benchmark for which the rest of us had strived to become when we reported good stories. So - or stories, period. It didn't have to be good. When we reported the story, we had to report with the same (unintelligible) that he did and be professional about it, which is something that I have to say, short of NPR, a lot of these stations are lacking in. So�

CONAN: All right, Sydney.

SYDNEY: �I have to say, I'm glad that I was at the radio station that he was at. I really enjoyed it. Someday I'll get back into it.

KASELL: Do it.

CONAN: Sydney, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

KASELL: Thank you.

SYDNEY: Congratulations.

KASELL: Thanks.

CONAN: Bye-bye. As we mentioned, Carl is going to continue as the official scorekeeper on WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME, and joining us from the studios of Chicago Public Radio is Peter Sagal, the host of that NPR quiz program. And Peter, nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION.

PETER SAGAL: Pleasure to be here, Neal. I have a bone to pick with you.

CONAN: And what that is?

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: When you introduced Carl, you said: somehow beloved. Somehow - isn't it obvious? You're spending time with Carl in the studio. Now, you know what it is like for me to have the charisma actually drip off him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Is that how - and you would not think the MORNING EDITION newscaster would be the first choice to be the official scorekeeper.

SAGAL: Well, he knew. Nobody else might have known, but Carl knew. This is my favorite story about Carl. I have many, but this is my favorite, which I think sums up Carl Kasell. It was early in WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME. In fact, it was so early that I was in Washington for the first time, I'd been brought there, and Carl and I were taking some publicity photos. And we were standing in the studio, not were - not far from where you are now, and we were trying to make the pictures little more amusing than publicity photos for NPR usually are. And we saw a piano. So we said, hey, let's play with it. So, I sat down in front of the piano and Carl, who was wearing his sensible sports jacket and slacks, was lying on top of the piano�

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: �with his chin in his palm, making his eyes at me in the manner�

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Michelle Pfeiffer in�

SAGAL: Thank you.

CONAN: �in "The Fabulous Baker Boys."

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: And he says to me, you know, I've always wanted to do this.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: That, ladies and gentlemen, is Carl Kasell. We discovered the chanteuse, the diva within.

CONAN: Carl, is that fun to do that show?

KASELL: Oh, wonderful. My goodness. It's - it caps my week. Three mornings a week, I've been doing news, and then I go to Chicago, now on Thursday morning. We do the show that night, and I go home laughing on Friday morning. It's great. And I work with some great people. Peter Sagal, who has matured so well over the years. Here's the guy that I had to teach broadcasting to.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: He had - he knew nothing. He didn't know how radio works. what side of the microphone you talk into. But I taught him that.

SAGAL: Turns out, people can hear you when you do that. I had no idea.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: That's right. Exactly, Peter. I taught him that. I had taught him the mic position, how to make people laugh, and he took that and put it all together. And today, Peter is really one of the shining spots on NPR.

CONAN: Up-and-coming young kids on the program.

KASELL: Oh, yeah. Yes, indeed.

CONAN: Well, let's see if we can get another caller in on the program. This is Steve, and Steve is calling us from Wichita.

STEVE (Caller): Yes, I am. Commenting on Carl's career would be like me saying the QE2's a really nice boat. I mean�

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEVE: �who would have to say anything like that? I was on WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME long, long time ago. In fact, Carl gave me the title of Rat Boy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEVE: And I was told that I was the first contestant from Wichita, so that makes me the Wichita Rat Boy. I've tried real hard to get over that. And, gee, I need another try sometime. I need another chance.

CONAN: Did you get Carl on your answering machine as a message?

STEVE: No, because I lost.

CONAN: Ah.

STEVE: A Rat Boy was a losing score back then.

CONAN: I see. It was in honor of Steve Inskeep, I think.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: It was, for reasons that are too hard to explain at this moment.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: But perfectly apropos. In any case, Steve, have you tried to get back on the program?

STEVE: Repeatedly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: Repeatedly.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And Peter, of course, will not let you back on.

STEVE: He - well, I can't get past the screener.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: That's actually me. I just used a funny, high-pitched voice.

STEVE: You do. Then you are also from Kansas, because she told me she was from Kansas.

CONAN: Steve, thanks very much for the call, and continued good luck getting on WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME.

STEVE: Yeah, yeah. Whatever.

CONAN: You�

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You'll notice somehow, he made it through our screener. I'm not sure what that says about the merits of the two programs, but nevertheless, I do have to ask you, Peter, as Carl continues as the official scorekeeper on the program, are you concerned that his fame will diminish in any way?

SAGAL: Well, that's actually something we were worried about because as everybody knows who listens to our show, Carl has given us cover over the years, that we sort of - we leech off his gravitas.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: Because Carl is on the show, it sounds like NPR. And without his daily dose of seriousness and Walter Cronkite-like demeanor in the morning, I'm not sure if we'll survive. But I think as you can see, Neal, sitting next to him, he has just the stature to carry it off. I think that he doesn't need to say anything serious to be serious.

KASELL: Well, as Brian Williams put it on NBC that night, when he announced that I was stepping down, you need the moral compass that I represent.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Peter, I have to ask, WAIT WAIT is often presented as a stage show these days.

SAGAL: It is.

CONAN: Does Carl cup his hand behind his ear when he announces the results? I always see him in that classic 1940s radio announcer pose.

SAGAL: Yes, I know. He doesn't do that, but I do want to tell you this, and this is true, because we do do the show live every week, either in our home theater in Chicago or sometimes, increasingly, on the road. We'll be, for example, this week at the Cobb Energy Center in Georgia. That's a huge venue, sometimes up to 3,000 seats.

And the show begins with an announcer announcing the cast. So the announcer will say something like: And here's the panel, Adam Feldberg. People go yay. And here's Paul Provenza, and people go yay. And here's Paula Poundstone, and the people go yay. And here's your judge and scorekeeper, Carl Kasell. And the place goes berserk. The noise and the ovation comes waving in, you know, which immediately ceases when they announce my name, but I'm all right with that now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SAGAL: And I'm dead serious. What's so much fun for me, in addition to everything else I do in the show, which is a great to be able - joy to do, there is nothing more fun than watching Carl, every week, get finally face to face, the affection back that he has inspired in radio listeners all over, all over the country, if not the world. And it's just a joy for me to see it every week.

CONAN: Well, Peter, you're going to get the great pleasure of continuing to be a colleague of Carl Kasell. He's going to be signing off as a morning newscaster here at National Public Radio, on MORNING EDITION, what Carl, at the end of this month?

KASELL: Yes, on the 30th.

CONAN: And just picked that day because it happened to be the end of the year?

KASELL: My last workday, actually.

CONAN: Huh. All right.

KASELL: End of the year.

CONAN: Peter, thanks very much for your time, and good luck with that show. I hear it might go someplace.

SAGAL: You never know. We're working on it.

CONAN: Peter Sagal is the host of NPR's news quiz WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME, and he joined us today from the studios of Chicago Public Radio. We cannot let Carl Kasell step down from his newscaster's microphone without a proper sendoff. You're all invited. We have many of his current and former NPR colleagues with us here in Studio 4A. Up next, another NPR icon joins us. 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. Come January, Carl Kasell's alarm clock will no longer ring at 1:05 in the morning. His steady voice will no longer pour out of millions of radios during MORNING EDITION. Don't worry, though. If you're lucky, you can still win his voice on your home answering machine.

Before our favorite newscaster retires, he's joined us to talk about his long career in radio, what's changed and what hasn't. And we're joined here in Studio 4A by many of his NPR colleagues.

Joanne Silberner, NPR health policy correspondent, could not be with us today, but through the magic of radio, she sent us this memory.

JOANNE SILBERNER: Okay, here's my Carl Kasell story. It was my first day of work at NPR, back in November of 1992. I was absolutely terrified. I was terrified about doing radio. I was terrified at meeting people I'd listened to for years and years and years. And the first thing that happened after I sat down was Carl came over.

I don't know how he knew I was there or I had sat down. There must have been a pressure monitor in my seat, and a sign went off. And Carl came right over and he looked at me, put out his hand, give me a big smile and said hi, I'm Carl. I've been here a while, and I know you're new here. If there's anything I can do to make your time easier, let me know. I nearly fell out my seat. It was such a nice thing to do.

CONAN: NPR's Joanne Silberner. We want to hear your stories. How has Carl Kasell changed your life, what he's said, what he's done? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can join the conversation on our Web site. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

And joining us in Studio 4A is another public radio icon: Bob Edwards, host of NPR's MORNING EDITION for almost 25 years. Bob, nice to have you back at NPR. Nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION.

BOB EDWARDS: Thanks for bringing me back.

CONAN: You worked with Carl for much of your career. Why was he so good?

EDWARDS: This man's a rock star now. It's just exciting what's happened to Carl. I mean, I used to think that if you looked up newscast in the dictionary, you'd see his picture, but now, a whole different dimension of Carl Kasell magic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: I remember being in the car seat, listening to Carl years ago and being inspired to go into�

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: When I was little, they didn't have car seats. So forget that.

CONAN: And that hair's not white, it's blonde.

EDWARDS: That's right.

CONAN: That's right. What - people even older than me may remember that you were once a newscaster yourself, Bob Edwards. How does Carl - what Carl does, what makes him special?

EDWARDS: I did newscasts, 1974, for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. 1978, February, I was co-host with Susan Stamberg. I got dressed to go to work. My wife says where you going? Going to work. You're not going to work today. It snowed. Well, a little snow isn't going to bother me, you know. I can get through snow. I open the door, could not see anything but snow. It had drifted up to the top of the door. It was all white. Just shut the door. Play day. Carl went to work.

Carl went to work. He walked from Alexandria, Virginia, across the bridge and did the news for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I've hated you ever since.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: You make us all look bad. You set a standard and a - impossible.

CONAN: Let me ask a semi-serious question here for a moment, then we'll get back to the hilarity. Carl, a lot of what you do every morning, you talked about you could no longer just rip the wire off the machine and read it as written by UPI or Associated Press or whoever was doing it. You had to write it, and part of what you did was set the news agenda for every day. You had to decide which is the most important story, which is the next-most-import story, what comes out of that, how to structure the news day for the rest of us. How do you make those decisions?

KASELL: I guess it's something I learned from almost the very beginning, because back in the early days of my career, it was a case of ripping the little summary of news from the wires and reading that, and you got an idea of what would be important, what was the top stories.

And then I came to the D.C. area and eventually became news director at an all-news operation in Arlington, Virginia, WAVA. And by golly, you'll learn then what's a top story and what's not, and I brought that with me. I guess you can put a couple of criteria on each story: its news value, hard-news value, and is it interesting? If you've got both the qualities there, you've got a good one. But any story that has hard-news value, that's good, or being interesting, that's also good. That's - it's a feeling you have. All I can say is when you have done this over time, time and time again, it's a feeling you have when you look at a story, that's it. That's going to be my lead on this hour.

EDWARDS: And I always thought your judgment was flawless.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: Seriously. I mean that.

CONAN: There is - I don't people understand the sight lines in Studio 2A, which is where MORNING EDITION is broadcast from. And for many years, Bob, you were there. And Carl, you were there, as well. The newscast booth is out of the line of sight of the host who's in the studio. You're just�

KASELL: You kind of have to lean back.

CONAN: Yeah, exactly. You just point, and they go to it. The essence of a story, there's a lot of stories that we have a hard time telling in 10 minutes or, on this program, in an hour. Carl, you managed to get it down to a few seconds. And Bob, there must have been moments you were saying I'm sitting here, you know, doing 10 minutes on this story, and he's gotten it down in 24 seconds.

EDWARDS: Yeah, you leave out the adverbs and the adjectives.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: Try to get the important stuff in. But I made it a kind of thing that I have. Looking at a story, if it's a very important story, I'll give it a little extra time. I will not confine myself to, say, 30 seconds or 45 seconds. If I think it deserves a minute, I'll do it, or even more than that if I think the story deserves it.

So I don't set a time limit. I just look at the story, determine what it deserves and give it.

CONAN: Let's get another call on the line. This is Amber, Amber with us from Detroit.

AMBER (Caller): Hi. How are you?

CONAN: I'm good, thanks.

AMBER: I have a Carl story. I'm 30 now, but when I was 10, I was listening to the pledge drive for WULM in Ann Arbor, and Carl had made a newscast, or a top-of-the-hour announcement. And afterward, when they were reciting the pledge number, I told my parents, I said: We have to give them money because I have to keep hearing Carl in the morning. And they let me call in the pledge, and so I've had a lengthy history, starting from when I was 10, with Carl Kasell in the morning.

CONAN: We hope that wasn't the last pledge.

AMBER: No, no. It was only my first, and I think that they even made some comment on the air about how young his audience was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: That goes back to the rock-star quality that Bob was talking about.

KASELL: I see kids nowadays who come to see WAIT WAIT in Chicago, or anywhere, that should be in bed at that time of the night. But they come in to see the show, and, of course, they like it. But we do have demographics that show that our audience really, from toddlers on up to real senior citizens.

CONAN: Amber, thanks very much for the call.

AMBER: Certainly. Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go next to - this is George, George - excuse me, is this - yeah, this is George, George with us from Augusta in Georgia.

GEORGE (Caller): Hello, Neal, Carl.

CONAN: Hi.

KASELL: Hi.

GEORGE: I just want to congratulate Carl. I've grown up with him, I feel like. When he started MORNING EDITION back in the late '70s and early '80s, I was on the horse-show circuit and heading out to the stables early in the morning. He would tell us the news that was going on around the world. And then in 1993, I took a job as a pastry chef in a coffee shop that was pre-Starbucks, and like him, I had to get in early in the morning to make the muffins and the scones, and�

CONAN: We ask Carl to do a lot on that program, but not that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GEORGE: And people would say, well, George, what time do you get up? And I would say I get up at 4:05. And they go why 4:05? And I said well, there's something about getting up at 4:00 o'clock in the morning, much like Carl was saying his 1:00 o'clock or 1:01 wake-up call.

CONAN: Sure. Yeah. He's so much a part of the lives of the people who are up at that hour and continue to do that. It's a special relationship. Thanks very much for the call, George.

GEORGE: You're welcome.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And Bob, don't you love it when people tell you, gee, I started listening to you when I was just a small boy?

EDWARDS: Yeah, and I say thanks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: Thanks a lot.

KASELL: Somebody told me that in Boston a couple of months ago, that she's been listening since she was going to school. When her dad was taking her to school in the morning in the car, he was listening to MORNING EDITION. Ashley Judd is my new friend.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: My fellow Kentuckian. There is something, though, coming to work and having Carl there that just, you know, I kept saying he can do this, I can do this.

CONAN: Was there - there is no one who will understand the stamina aspect of what he has done all these years better than you.

EDWARDS: Yeah, it's the truth. And we used to have our little 15-minute conversation�

KASELL: Every morning.

EDWARDS: �when Carl would first come in, and just, you know, sit there and grouse about our bosses and everything and start the day on a real positive�

CONAN: You kept that to 15 minutes?

(Soundbite of laughter)

EDWARDS: But yeah, that was important. That was important that we have our little time together.

KASELL: It was. From the very beginning of MORNING EDITION, I'd stop by Bob's office, and the chair was there, I claimed it as my own, and sit there by his desk. And sometimes we'd just look at each other and say nothing and wonder: Why are we hear this turned-away time of the day? And I remember one morning, I came in, and this was during basketball season, I think toward the end when the tournaments were underway, and my Tar Heels the night before had beaten Kentucky.

Mr. EDWARDS: So I was in a good mood.

KASELL: And Bob is - caught Bob in a good mood. Bob is from Louisville, and the University of Louisville. And of course�

CONAN: Is that a fact?

KASELL: Yes. And they're very big rivals with Kentucky. And I walked in the door and Bob got down on his knees and just thanked me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Well, Bob, is there one story that you remember particularly about Carl in all those years you worked with him?

Mr. EDWARDS: Oh, I think the snow day ranks right up there�

CONAN: Ranks straight up there. But�

Mr. EDWARDS: But - we were mutually supportive every day. And I think that was so important to my time here.

CONAN: Hmm. There is a time, Carl, you stepped out of the role as a newscaster for a period of time to host a program called EARLY MORNING EDITION. It was the precursor to MORNING EDITION, then starting at 5 a.m. Eastern Time. And I wondered, you got the opportunity to expand some of those stories and do longer pieces.

KASELL: Well, actually, I did not stop out of the newscasting job. I did EARLY MORNING EDITION between five and six, and then I picked up the newscast at 6:00, if I remember correctly, and then for the rest of the morning.

CONAN: But did you enjoy the opportunity to�

KASELL: Oh, sure, I loved it. That 5:00 - well, I had to get up earlier than 1:00 in the morning.

CONAN: Even earlier.

KASELL: About 11:00 at night, you know, and come in and did that show. And it was fun. Had a great staff working because they did much of the work putting the segments together. And I�

Mr. EDWARDS: But, man, just the newscast. I mean, do you know what this guy did? Seven newscasts every morning - what, nine minutes on?

KASELL: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Mr. EDWARDS: Seven nine-minute news - nobody in this business does that. That is incredible.

KASELL: But also at that time there was - I had�

CONAN: Notice how he just rides right over that.

Mr. EDWARDS: Yeah. I mean�

(Soundbite of audience laughter)

KASELL: I had three jobs at that time. I was doing EARLY MORNING EDITION, I was doing my newscasts, and then we were working on WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME!, putting that show together, too, doing some pilots and so forth. It was fun.

CONAN: And writing your memoir.

KASELL: Time consuming.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Carl Kasell is our guest. At the end of this month, indeed the end of this year, he will no longer be the primary newscaster on MORNING EDITION. He's been associated with that program since its inception 30 years ago. He's had 50 years, more than 50 years�

KASELL: Fifty-nine..

CONAN: And - whoa, more, well, a lot more than 50 years in radio all together. Bob Edwards, the longtime host of MORNING EDITION, is also with us. You're listening TALK OF THE NATION which is coming to you from NPR News. And we have a question from here in the audience in Studio 4A.

KEN RUDIN: Yes. I'm a longtime listener but a first-time caller.

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: My name is Ken Rudin. I'm the political editor here. And, you know, a lot of people always ask about Carl Kasell referring to Walter Cronkite as being revered. There's something about Carl Kasell, though, that outdoes Cronkite because there was some controversy about Cronkite, about Vietnam, about some of the things he said. I just want everybody to know that, everybody out there, as much as they love Carl Kasell, we feel exactly the same under the building and we've always felt that way.

My unfortunate memory of Carl Kasell is on the morning of 9/11. I was in a doctor's office and I didn't know anything was happening because I was just sitting there. And they had NPR on and I hear at 9:00, Carl Kasell telling about the planes that hit the World Trade Center. And unfortunately, for me, every time I think of 9/11, I do think of Carl's voice. But I always remember that day so distinctly.

I travel a lot for NPR, going to member stations and everybody always asks, you know, is Carl - have you ever seen Carl Kasell in a sour mood? And I'll be honest, there is one time when I did see Carl was in a grumpy mood when he found out he was on Aaron Burr's(ph) enemies list. And I thought that was a very sad moment�

(Soundbite of laughter)

RUDIN: But anyway, everybody always asks about Carl. Wherever I go, they love you, Carl, and we love you.

KASELL: Thank you, Ken.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Ken Rudin with us here in Studio 4A. And let's get Chad(ph) on the line. Chad is calling from Richmond.

CHAD (Caller): Hi. Mr. Kasell, really, I've always been really fascinated ever since I was in college and started listening to NPR by the way you pronounce certain things, like the number 59, you'd say 59�

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHAD: �and all the things like that. And you and I think Daniel Schorr are two of the really - two of the only radio broadcasters left around, at least that I hear on a regular basis, who have very distinctive and a way of speaking. And I wonder if you were trained in a particular way or it's simply how people talked back then.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: Just the way people talked back then.

CHAD: And I mean that very respectfully.

CONAN: Well, Olde English, is that what you're talking about?

CHAD: Yes, yes, yes.

KASELL: Well, to begin with, I'm a Southern boy. I came�

CHAD: Oh, good, good. So am I.

KASELL: I grew up in the South, you know, and I guess the influence kind of takes over once in a while. I think, Bob, you had that trouble when you go to Louisville, don't you?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EDWARDS: Yeah.

KASELL: Yeah.

Mr. EDWARDS: Well, we knew how people were supposed to sound on the radio so�

KASELL: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Mr. EDWARDS: �we started sounding like that and rounding off the vowels, instead of saying ah. We probably grew up saying ice cream.

KASELL: Ice cream, yeah.

Mr. EDWARDS: Mm-hmm. Right.

CHAD: Well, I'll make the offer, Mr. Kasell. I'll leave the message on your voicemail if you'll leave yours on mine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Okay. I think he's probably had that offer before but, Chad, thanks very much for your call. I appreciate it.

CHAD: Thanks so much.

KASELL: Thanks, Chad.

CONAN: Here's an email from Naomi(ph) in Portland, Oregon. Carl Kasell changed my life one morning. His voice was the first one I heard when my alarm went off one morning in my apartment in Los Angeles. He told me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center in my hometown of New York. Life has never been the same. And whenever I think of 9/11, I think up of waking to Carl's voice. And Bob, you and I were both here that morning, as well. And having Carl be a rock that morning was just the most comforting thing I could imagine.

Mr. EDWARDS: That morning and a thousand others, awful things happened in the morning. I remember the Sadat assassination happened about 7:30 our time here. And, yeah, all of those mornings when Carl was - Carl was our anchor. He was the real anchor of that program, I think. I'll say it again, seven nine-minute�

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EDWARDS: I mean, that's working. That's working. And I think reading, you know?

KASELL: Actually it's eight and a half minutes.

Mr. EDWARDS: Writing and�

CONAN: Eight nine-minutes.

KASELL: Eight and a half.

Mr. EDWARDS: And writing them.

CONAN: And writing them - and writing them all. There is also a parlor trick that people don't totally appreciate unless they're in the business. It's called hitting the post. And there are several posts within exact moments to the second when you have to end portions of that newscast. I have never heard Carl blow the post. I blow the post with greater frequency in a week than Carl has done in his career, and my director in the studio is laughing. Carl�

Mr. EDWARDS: This is a spot on the clock when you are to complete the story because station maybe joining or cutting away or�

CONAN: Switching away, and computers will turn you off around the country. Bob Edwards, thank you so much for joining us in this conversation.

Mr. EDWARDS: Thanks for having me.

CONAN: Bob Edwards, here with us in Studio 4A. He hosted NPR's MORNING EDITION for nearly 25 years. He now hosts his own daily show on Sirius XM Radio, as well as �Bob Edwards Weekend,� which is distributed by Public Radio International. More of your questions and calls for Carl Kasell, plus a couple of surprise guests. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: Today we're saying a premature goodbye to Carl Kasell, at least in the early morning hours. He will cease his newscasts on NPR's MORNING EDITION, he's been doing those for 30 years now, at the end of this year. You will, however, still hear him on WAIT WAIT�DON'T TELL ME! We want to hear your stories about how what Carl has said and done have changed your life. Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org.

And joining us now by phone from her office in New York is �CBS Evening News� anchor Katie Couric. And, Katie, it's nice to have you on TALK OF THE NATION today.

Ms. KATIE COURIC (Host, �CBS Evening News�): Well, it's very nice to be here, and it's especially nice to be able to salute Carl Kasell today. It's so nice. It's all Carl all the time on NPR.

CONAN: It is. It is. And I understand that you've worked with Carl.

Ms. COURIC: Yes, when I was an intern. After my first year at the University of Virginia, I got an internship at WAVA all-news radio, where it was all news all the time. And Carl was the news director and just a wonderful person for me to watch as I tried to learn about journalism and navigate sort of the world of the media. And as everyone knows, there's no finer or nicer person than Carl Kasell. Hi, Carl.

KASELL: Hi, Katie. It's been a long time.

Ms. COURIC: I know. And it's so nice to talk to you. And I've wanted our paths to cross, and they just haven't intersected in recent years. But I was just so thrilled for you on your retirement but also sad because we need you, Carl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: Well, I am going to be around on WAIT WAIT, a quiz program.

Ms. COURIC: I'm very familiar with it. I talk to Mo Rocca(ph) about it, Carl�

KASELL: Yeah, uh-huh.

Ms. COURIC: �because a part of me is dying to be on that show and part of me is absolutely terrified that if I don't know the answers, I'll be so humiliated I'll never be able to show myself and my face in public again.

KASELL: Katie, that's not important. Just being there is�

Ms. COURIC: It's important. It is important to me, Carl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: But you know, Katie, we did the show in Carnegie Hall, you know, a couple of months ago. We're going to do it again next October, too, at Carnegie Hall. Two shows.

Ms. COURIC: Well, maybe�

KASELL: I will be calling you.

Ms. COURIC: �Carl. To be able to work with you again would be worth it, but I'm the kind of person I get all the questions right on �Jeopardy!� when I'm watching it from my sofa. And I'm just afraid, you know, I - if I ever went on celebrity �Jeopardy!� - and God bless the people who do because I think they're so brave and they give all that money to charity - but the notion of like freezing and having a brain synapse misfiring is just too terrifying.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: This could be perhaps one of the very few, you know, equal trades. You could each do each other's answering machines.

KASELL: I want to tell�

Ms. COURIC: Yeah. You know, that's an excellent idea.

KASELL: Yeah. I want to tell the story about how NPR did Katie a favor years ago. When she finished school, she was out looking for work and she came to NPR a couple of times and looking for something to do, and we said no. We turned her away.

CONAN: This kid is never going to make it, yeah.

KASELL: And this - well, I don't know about that but, yeah, we turned her away and it was a good thing we did.

Ms. COURIC: Can I ask you, Carl, why? Why did you do that? I'm still�

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: It wasn't me, Katie. It was the management that did that. I would've have hired you on the spot as I did when I brought you in as an intern at WAVA.

Ms. COURIC: I mean, you can't tell I'm perky on the radio, Carl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COURIC: Or maybe you can.

KASELL: No.

Ms. COURIC: Well, you know, everything turned out okay for me. But, you know, Carl, I just wish you all the best. And everyone says you're going to sleep in for the first time in many, many years.

KASELL: That's right. No more 1:00 rising.

Ms. COURIC: Well, take it from me, someone who used to do mornings, it takes about two days to get used to it (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Katie Couric, we suspect you've got other things to do this afternoon, but we appreciate�

Ms. COURIC: No, I got all the time in the world, Neal.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COURIC: Yeah. No, actually, I have to go do an interview about cancer rates right now, and we've got a big, big show ahead. So�

CONAN: Well, keep �em laughing.

Ms. COURIC: Yeah, exactly. But, Carl, all the best to you. And I would love to see you. If you're in the city and you feel like having lunch or a cup of coffee, it would be so much fun to say hello. And I'll do the same if I - are you still in northern Virginia?

KASELL: Oh, yes. Uh-huh.

Ms. COURIC: Because I get down there to see my mom and dad.

KASELL: Okay.

Ms. COURIC: And so maybe we can coordinate things the next time I'm in town, we could meet up.

KASELL: Sure, we should do that. I'd like to see you again. And I'll be looking for you next October when we do our show.

Ms. COURIC: Okay. Oh, look. He's hawking me already, you guys.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Yeah. I just like to see Carl's people, you know? We can arrange this, you know? Anyway�

Ms. COURIC: He's still the pushy Carl KASELL I remember.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Katie Couric, thanks so much for your time.

Ms. COURIC: Okay. Nice to talk to you. And good luck, Carl.

KASELL: Thank you, Katie.

Ms. COURIC: Okay, bye.

KASELL: Bye.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's see if we can get Valerie(ph) on the line. Valerie is with us from Saint Paul, Minnesota.

VALERIE (Caller): Yeah. I was kind of hoping that Carl could solve a mystery for me.

KASELL: Mm-hmm.

VALERIE: And several years ago, I was driving to work and I heard Carl doing the morning newscast. And then silence. And then some frantic paper shuffling. And then you hear Carl's voice in a stage whisper, I need more copy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

VALERIE: I need more copy. And then I drove into the parking garage and I lost the signal. And so I don't know how that story ended.

KASELL: I got more copy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And, by the way, it's copy, not coffee. Copy. Copy.

VALERIE: What?

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: I remember that. Yeah. I don't know. I ran out of something, I guess, and I had time to fill. And I saw it coming. So I - we have two buttons on the table. One is for coughing and one is for talking to the engineer. And I hit the wrong button.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: So - and so it went out on the air. But I got the copy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

VALERIE: Oh.

KASELL: It was either that or recapping this morning's news�

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: And we've never done that before.

KASELL: We have never done that before.

CONAN: Valerie, thanks very much for the call. We're glad we could�

KASELL: Thanks, Valerie.

CONAN: �solve that mystery for you.

VALERIE: Thank you.

CONAN: Bye-bye. Let's go to a question here in the studio audience.

GREG WEST(ph): I'm Greg West. And like so many others here, I'm very pleased to be one of your colleagues here at NPR. You know, with all the humor that we've been sharing about your history on radio and particularly here at NPR, maybe it would be good to know something a little bit more - a slightly more serious note. Let me just perhaps start by saying that your voice has been, for so many us, all through the decades, that voice of reassurance in times of difficulty, and the voice of what we hear to be true and to be smart. So thank you for that, and I know we're all going to miss waking up with you all the years to come.

But could you - maybe share your thoughts with us a little bit. What did you think about the development of journalism and media news? You've seen and been a part of it all - for all these decades. And so many times these days, we get kind of infotainment that calls itself news. What do you maybe see coming down the road and maybe what will be some of your recommendations to the news media out there?

KASELL: Right now, I would say that we at NPR are doing it right, doing the right thing. We've been doing it for years. And I want to see this continue. And I would suggest any other news organization that's having problems should look at us for an example of how to do it right and do the right thing. So there you go.

CONAN: It's going to get a lot of argument in this room.

KASELL: I'm sure.

CONAN: Every week, Carl KASELL has to make a decision that affects the fate of one lucky caller. Often, our next guest, comedienne Paula Poundstone - Paula is one of the panelist at WAIT, WAIT� DON'T TELL ME! And she joins us today from her office in Los Angeles. Paula, nice to have you back on the program.

Ms. PAULA POUNDSTONE (Comedienne): Hey, guys. Thanks for having me.

KASELL: Paula.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: Hey, Carl.

KASELL: How are you?

Ms. POUNDSTONE: I'm good.

CONAN: And what are those magic words that you wait to hear from Carl every week?

Ms. POUNDSTONE: Paula needed 10 to win the prize this week. And did she do it, Carl?

KASELL: Paula had the right points. She had enough. And this week's winner is Paula Poundstone.

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. POUNDSTONE: Those words are very, very rare. Very, very rare.

CONAN: Have you ever considered bribery?

Ms. POUNDSTONE: I have tried. You know, I'll tell you something. There's a lot of statisticians that are fans of WAIT, WAIT. I mean, people tell me that, you know, they listened the first time I won. They know how many answers I've ever had. There are people who really pay close attention. And those people will know that anytime Roy Blunt is on with me, he throws the match.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: He throws the match?

Ms. POUNDSTONE: He does. He's got this kind of southern gentleman thing going on. And he always does. You - I'm telling you. They could throw in in his lightning round, you know, who are you married to, and he wouldn't answer.

CONAN: And he goes hamana-hamana(ph) and he'd start channeling Ralph Kramden.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: That is exactly right. I have never approached Carl about cheating because it just didn't feel right.

CONAN: Segal, however, I think he'd take a bribe.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: He has.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. POUNDSTONE: He has over and over again. You know, all of my favorite things in the show is when Carl does impressions. He does�

CONAN: These are, we should say, during the various news stories and he would say, who is the person who said this in the past week and you would do the voice of, for example�

Ms. POUNDSTONE: He does a fine Paris Hilton.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. POUNDSTONE: He does a senator with a notoriously wide stance. He does any number of congressmen with concubines.

CONAN: That's a long list and getting longer every day.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: It is, and he does them with heart and feeling and empathy, I think.

CONAN: And as you watch him, do you have any difficulty correlating this person you see as the official score keeper on WAIT, WAIT� DON'T TELL ME! and doing all these wonderful voices with the man who wakes you up in the morning with your news?

Ms. POUNDSTONE: It's a different man. And let me just say that never has schizophrenia been used to such advantage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. POUNDSTONE: It's - you know, normally, it's a mental health problem that keeps people out of the workforce. But in Carl's case, he's actually managed to make two jobs out of it.

CONAN: Carl, do you - on the way to Chicago, step into the lavatory on the airline, and then change?

KASELL: I put on my Superman suit.

CONAN: Yes, exactly.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: No. It's always kind of shocking frankly to hear him on the morning news. I mean -you know - he doesn't do the - it's a different guy entirely. Different time as well, you know? He doesn't have to get up at one in the morning to do WAIT, WAIT� DON'T TELL ME!

CONAN: Well, we could change that. I'm sure Peter and you and all the other guys would be happy to tape at 5 AM.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: We would be happy. I love it when, you know, when - at the end of the show, we often - not on the air but with the, you know, studio audience, I guess you'd call it - you know, we often open it up for questions and let people ask stuff. And they always ask Carl, first of all. They're always kind of blown away by the fact that that's Carl, and they can all - they always ask him, you know, how - most of them think he does news all week, by the way, which we're just so used to hearing his voice that most of the people say, how do you do the news Thursday and Friday and then get here in time? And he always says to them, well, for the last 10 years, I've only got up Monday through Wednesday.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: That's right. It happens a lot.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: Yeah. They never - they have no idea. And then, they always ask question about, you know, how he goes from house to house to record the - his voice on people's answering machines.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. POUNDSTONE: So there's a Santa Claus-type feeling out there about Carl. And then they'll often play one of his, you know, one of his recordings on people's home answering machines, and they're great.

CONAN: Hmm.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: It's worth - it's really worth cheating for, I feel.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: We're talking with, of course, Carl Kasell. With us, one of the panelist of WAIT, WAIT...DON'T TELL ME, Paula Poundstone. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

CONAN: And let's get a caller on the line. This is Deborah(ph). Deborah with us from Reno in Nevada.

DEBORAH (Caller): Hi. I would like to profess my thanks to Mr. Kasell with -telling him that when I was a little girl, my dad was a radio announcer. And I grew up being drilled on the correct way to speak. But I also grew up really appreciating and loving someone who is intelligent and articulate. And whenever I hear Carl Kasell, I think about my dad. And it brings not only the comfort of Carl Kasell's voice announcing those difficult times people have mentioned, but reminds of my dad who was the first president of National Public Radio 30 years ago.

CONAN: Really?

DEBORAH: Yeah. That was Don Quayle.

CONAN: Don Quayle.

DEBORAH: Yes. I hope he's listening. And I appreciate Mr. Kasell continuing on all of the hopes and dreams and aspirations that those people who started NPR had.

CONAN: Well, thanks very much for the call, Deborah.

KASELL: Thanks.

DEBORAH: Mm-hmm. Bye-bye.

CONAN: Appreciate it.

Let's go to a question from here in the audience in Studio 4A.

BARBARA (Audience): Hi. I'm Barbara, and I'm one of Carl's colleagues. And I just wondered how you decided to go into the radio business. You have such a mellifluous voice. I wondered if that had anything to do with it or if you just woke up one day and said, I think I want to be a radioman?

KASELL: No. Actually, the voice had nothing to do with it for - because when I first got the idea I like to be in radio, I was about seven years old.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: So the voice had not matured then.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KASELL: But I - my grandmother had a wind-up Victrola, which I used to play with. And I listened to the radio all the time. I loved it, just thought it was fantastic, the music, the people. And at the local radio station, they were always open on the weekends, and my dad would take me out there occasionally on a Sunday and we'd go in. We'd see the guys working behind the glass walls, so to speak. And there was that teletype machine in the little room off the studio, and that was really fascinating. I loved it.

So when I would play with my grandmother's Victrola, I would - she had a couple of records, I guess - I would be a DJ. I would play those records and I'd make up commercials and sometimes make up a newscast and just have a lot of fun doing that.

Got to high school, and we had a fine, wonderful drama department there in which one branch of it was a class in radio, because the drama director thought that learning how to project pictures with a radio script, a play, was very important, just as important as doing it on the stage. So I took part in that too. And the station had a weekend program of high school news in the local radio station. And between my sophomore and junior years - I was 16 - I auditioned, and I got to read the news from time to time. And that summer, I was offered a part time job, and I have been going at it ever since.

CONAN: I have to ask Paula Poundstone, as you listen to that start in radio, have you thought about giving up the comedy business?

Ms. POUNDSTONE: It sounds great. It sounds so smooth, you know? You know, the way - there's not one mention of the International House of Pancakes in there, which has kind of checkered my career.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. POUNDSTONE: You know, that you know what you wanted to do and then you went and did something in high school, and then you, you know, worked your way. That's - that doesn't happen anymore, by the way. You know, they say that you will have, you know, 10 jobs in our lifetime or something, and a lot of the jobs haven't even been invented yet. But it doesn't matter to Carl. He'll be sleeping in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Except of Thursday and Friday, when he will be joining you and the other panelists on WAIT, WAIT...DON'T TELL ME, wherever that program may happen to be originating from that week.

Paula Poundstone, thanks very much for being with us today.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: It was so nice talking with you. Carl, good luck and I'll see you in the 17th.

KASELL: Okay. Okay, Paula.

Ms. POUNDSTONE: All right. Take care.

CONAN: Paula Poundstone, a comedienne, a regular panelist on WAIT, WAIT...DON'T TELL ME, with us today by phone from her office in Los Angeles.

Carl, we just have a few seconds left. As you prepare to exit the news business, any regrets?

KASELL: No, not a bit. I have enjoyed it all the way, from being a 7-year-old to where I am today in the business. I've had a lot of luck. I've known some wonderful people along the way. And I must say that I've worked with some great people, too. Without this backup, with this support that I have here at NPR and that I've had through years in the business, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing today, I'm sure. It's a - it's one of those things that are very important to anybody in the business, especially if you're on the air. You've got to have support and you've got to have good people working with you.

CONAN: And Carl, you've got to leave us time to give you a round of applause on your way out.

KASELL: Okie dokie. Thank you.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Carl Kasell, keeping us company every morning after so many years on MORNING EDITION. And he will continue as the official scorekeeper on WAIT, WAIT...DON'T TELL ME.

Tomorrow, comedian Paul Mooney will join us. He's got an edge to his comedy, and he's had that for a long time. Join us then.

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

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