'Talk Of The Nation' To End; 'Here & Now' To Expand

BOSTON — NPR is ending Talk of the Nation after 21 years on the air, and will seek to replace it in a new strategic partnership with WBUR’s Here & Now.

Talk of the Nation, broadcast by more than 400 stations nationwide, will stop production at the end of June. NPR says host Neal Conan will “step away from the rigors of daily journalism” after 35 years at NPR and 11 years hosting the show. Science Friday, with Ira Flatow, will continue.

To replace the mid-day staple program and to boost news coverage between its flagship drive-time show Morning Edition and All Things Considered, NPR is partnering with member station WBUR to expand the Boston station’s hourlong news magazine Here & Now to two hours. It will be updated throughout the afternoon as it airs in different time zones. The expanded Here & Now debuts July 1.

Robin Young (WBUR)

Robin Young (WBUR)

NPR relies on its network of affiliated stations to subscribe to its programs and contribute new stories and other editorial content. However, this level of strategic partnership with a member station such as WBUR is unprecedented.

“This is a different kind of collaboration,” said NPR Chief Content Officer Kinsey Wilson, “and one where we’ve kind of rolled up our sleeves together and imagined what this show, which is already successful, could become when expanded to two hours.”

Here & Now, which is currently hosted by Robin Young, will add a co-host. Jeremy Hobson currently hosts the Marketplace Morning Report. WBUR plans to add a total of six people to produce the expanded show. NPR will encourage public radio stations to replace Talk of the Nation with Here & Now and also contribute editorial muscle to the expanded show.

WBUR General Manager Charles Kravetz said, “There’s going to be a lot more NPR content and bloggers and reporters and editors who are going to contribute to the program. But at the core, the great program that Here & Now is will still be there and get better and better.”

Jeremy Hobson (Marketplace Morning Report)

Jeremy Hobson (Marketplace Morning Report)

NPR executives said the unusual move to seek to replace Talk of the Nation with WBUR’s Here & Now, which is carried by not even half as many stations across the country, is partly in response to long-voiced demands by member stations calling for more robust news coverage during the workday. The number of public radio listeners sags markedly between Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

In 2003, NPR debuted a one-hour mid-day news magazine Day to Day, but canceled the show during the financial crisis four years ago. Today’s unusual alliance between NPR and one of its member stations reflects a more pragmatic approach to expanding news coverage. NPR has told staff it expects to run a deficit this year.

“Look, it’s a tough media economy right now,” said NPR’s Wilson. “And I don’t know that anybody can afford to go it alone these days. Collectively, we have much better prospects working together.”

Wilson declined to discuss the specifics of the business arrangement, saying only that it involves shared risk and shared reward. Still, NPR Senior Vice President for News Margaret Low Smith said collaboration sends a strong signal to member stations.

“This is pretty bold and exciting,” she said, “and makes a powerful statement about how we believe we can go forward together in public radio.”

WBUR has produced Here & Now since 1997 and made it a national program in 2001. It’s currently aired on 182 stations, including WBEZ Chicago, WHYY Philadelphia and KJZZ Phoenix.

Incoming co-host Hobson, 30, said he’s looking forward to joining a mid-day news magazine that differentiates itself to some extent from NPR’s existing flagship programs.

“It is a national news magazine that is based outside of the New York/D.C. news bubble,” he said. “It is not going to be consumed by the same news cycles that everybody else is following. It’s going to be a show that is going to do stories that are the most interesting and most important to the most people.”

Meghna Chakrabarti, co-host of WBUR’s Radio Boston, will serve as Here & Now’s primary backup host.

Conan expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to host Talk of the Nation for 11 years.

“I’m especially proud that we go out on top,” Conan said, “with the largest number of stations and the largest audience in the program’s history.”

This post has been updated to include All Things Considered feature content.

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  • Mr. Twicky

    I’m a fan of Here and Now and Robin Young and I wish them great success, however, I am not at all happy about the cancellation of Talk of the Nation. It is a program I look forward to and depend on and it will be greatly missed. Here and Now is a terrific show, but it will not fill the void left by Talk of the Nation.

  • Mica

    Love Robin and Here and Now but will miss Talk of the Nation. PLEASE tell me you will still have the Political Junkie every Wednesday.

    • mumtothree

      I also love the Political Junkie, one of the best things on TOTN. Also, don’t mess with Fresh Air! And how about adding a weekend highlights of Fresh Air? Some of us still listen to RADIO, not podcasts.

  • Mr. Twicky

    It’s also going to be interesting to see what the new WBUR schedule ends up looking like. Specifically – what happens to Fresh Air now that Here and Now is expanding?

    • http://twitter.com/CurtNickisch Curt Nickisch

      WBUR will air Fresh Air one hour later, at 2pm in Boston.

  • Al Dorman41

    I welcome this. I listen to both out in Vegas (KNPR) and both programs are decent, but Robin Young does a better job. Talk of the Nation was good back in the day (they even had Noam Chomsky on), but these days it’s almost right-wing, extremely pro-establishment inside-baseball stuff. I’m not sad to see it go, but they should keep Science Friday for sure.
    Congrats to WBUR!

  • Al Gold

    This is extraordinarily disappointing. While Here and Now is quality and, often, destination programming, Talk of the Nation has proven to be just that: a resource for the in-depth exploration of topics with broad interest. For an announcement like this to occur a week after contributing during Talk of the Nation with the promise that “the quality you are used to will continue into the future” is saddening and, frankly, a bit maddening. Please reconsider.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alan.day.7739 Alan Day

    Congratulations, Robin and WBUR!! Robin has been a star for a very long time, and it’s great to let more people around the country be blessed with your talents again.

  • ellamack

    I love TOTN, and Neal Conan is superb – well-informed, gracious, personable, quick-witted, thoughtful, and a great interviewer – and I’m very sad about this.

    I was a regular BUR listener for the 10 years that I spent as a resident of Boston and never found H&N to be very substantial, frankly. I just scrolled through a few archive shows, and I fail to see that H&N covers anything new, or reports in a different way, than any other media outlet. So adding this to the national roster seems redundant.

    TOTN, on the other hand, engages experts and interested laypeople in all sorts of issues that are interesting in American society. There really are very few callers per show, and those who get in generally contribute something of substance, some personal or professional perspective, to the discussion.

    TOTN hosts a national conversation 4 days a week with people who care about ideas. I will miss it.

  • Joe Blow

    I am glad beyond measure! Am sure Neil Konan will find some other job Ruling the Universe from a phone booth! Its in his nature … bye God!

  • sjw81

    will miss this show. maybe if they cut costs,ever,they could afford to keep on

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joanie-Gentian/610374005 Joanie Gentian

    Best radio news in ages to me. Talk of the Nation seemed to me to be the sacrificial cow to the right wing Tea Party type crowd in Congress. So long as the show featured the views and guests that were pleasing to them the GOP Congress did not try too hard to shut then down with complete defunding…was my take away. People on the left would call in with views that might be somewhat less than totally fact based or completely screened and they were rudely shut down; but it seemed that Conan was not so willing to do that with the more right wing callers who were at least as speculative. I am much more a fan of Here and Now, and Robin’s more in-depth explorations of topics. I seem to share a lot of her interests, so perhaps I am biased, but that show is infinitely better, IMO.
    But, I did not really intend to comment here so much as to ask the question: where is WBUR going to put Science Friday? I understand H&N will be 12-2, Fresh Air at 2, and Radio Boston will remain at 3pm…but where are you going to squeeze in Science Friday? I sure would like to hear the whole two hours again..

  • yml bos

    I like Here & Now, but Talk Of The Nation is always much more engaging. Political Junkie is always good fun. That said, the two shows have rather different focus; while H&N has more international coverage with help from BBC, TOTN is national, front and center. To be honest, if I really really really have to choose, I would pick TOTN.

    PS: No offense to Robin Young, but she at times reminds me of Katie Couric during the morning shows.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=26004940 Cathy Finn-Derecki

    I’m not sad to see it go. I’ve noticed a loss of its edge, and the Political Junkie stuff has gotten almost unlistenable with all the banter. Sorry — it was great years ago but it ain’t what it used to be.

  • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

    I am saddened to hear the end of Talk of the Nation. I usually turn WBUR off after TotN and have an hour of radio silence during Fresh Air. Could we keep Talk of the Nation and dump Fresh Air. I like having a political news program during the day, and mostly ignore the pop culture reporting of Fresh Air. Please don’t drop Talk of the Nation.

    • Mr. Twicky

      If you are turning your radio off after listening to Talk… the show you’re not listening to is Radio Boston. Fresh Air precedes Talk… Also, anyone who does listen to Fresh Air, even occasionally, knows that it regularly covers a range of topics that goes far beyond “pop culture” and that the pop culture it does feature is more than a few cuts above what will be found elsewhere.

      • http://www.fibrowitch.net Jan Dumas

        You are correct sir, I did mix the two shows up. I always listen to Radio Boston. Heck I call in often enough that I wonder why Meghna Chakrabarti, still can’t pronounce my name right.

  • Jim Hanna

    Stopped listening and contributing to WBUR a few years ago when the tea party influence became obvious. There are other good local news stations to listen too.

    • Mr. Twicky

      This is not the first comment I have read like this and I would really appreciate a fuller explanation, because I listen to NPR and WBUR all the time and I just don’t see where you are coming from with the charge that they are overly influenced by the Tea Party.

      • Al Dorman26

        I think the crux is, they ignored Occupy Wall St. For months.

  • Rachelle Taqqu

    Congratulations to Robin Young who is just terrific. But I am flabbergasted that they are elevating a 30 year hold with a slim resume to be co-host. Ya think because he’s a guy and she’s a gal? I cannot imagine that this would be done to a male host. Today’s NYT story even mentioned the new boy first, as though it’s going to be his show, and mentioned our wonderful Robin, founding host, only as an afterthought. I find this just so dispiriting.

  • MayCoolerHeadsPrevail

    The difference between the shows is that Talk of the Nation is excellent and here and Now is pretty good. Not a disaster, but a step down, anyway.

  • Al Dorman26

    This is excellent news, I find Talk of the Nation to be relentlessly pro-establishment. Robin Young’s a bit more skeptical.

  • Surprenant James

    I am thrilled Science Friday survives…

  • Artisticidea

    Seeing that Neal Conan has always annoyed the living socks off of me,
    with his bulldozing callers’ comments with overly simplistic reductions & party-line
    precis, I am excited that he is retiring and making more room for
    talented broadcasters like the wonderful Robin Young. Does this also mean they get rid of their “political expert,” who offers nothing but regurgitated WaPo Redux swill as “expert” commentary (in addition to his vast database of useless political who’s who)? Hooray! Great move for WBUR!

  • Mycroft

    I wish Here and Now all the failure in the world. TOTN was live, up-to-date, and a perfect antidote to prerecorded minutae featured on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. WBUR’s The World with Marco Werman puts me to sleep if I forget to turn off the radio and fall victim to his droning. I sincerely hope our Northern California stations – KQED (San Francisco Bay Area) and KXJZ (Sacramento) carry something more relevant and engaging than Here and Now. On the plus side, I suppose its audience of six or seven listeners will double or triple.

  • Scott

    Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss, Boo, Hiss!

    -An NPR contributor (less than before the loss of TOTN).

  • briandonegan

    I was already dropping WBUR to find stations that carried the second hour of TOTN when Radio Boston came on at 3:00, so I guess I will just listed (and contribute) elsewhere for the rest of the day.

    Robin is great and all, but this is a terrible move. What are we going to get out of a second hour of H&N that we don’t get on ATC and ME? Not much.

    Sad days.

    Science Friday survives, but I am betting BUR will not carry it, or certainly not all of it.

    I guess, in the end, I don;t much like the way BUR has been spending my contributions. Too big for their britches…

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