I had been wondering what the hell happened to Talk of the Nation over the last few months, and why it seemed to be gone. Tonight I looked it up, and listened to the host Neal Conan's sign-off for the show and his career at NPR. It's spicy! [listen here, it's worth it]
So right here, I form my own private compact with NPR and my member stations. I will listen and, yes, I will open my checkbook, but I need some services in return. Go and tell me the stories behind everything that happened in the world today. Explain why it happened, and how it affects our lives. Do it every day. Tell me what's important, and don't waste my time with stupid stuff.
I listened devotedly to Talk of the Nation for more than 10 years. I recorded many programs from the radio and recorded them to my hard drive before podcasts were invented. Every day at work it was Howard Stern then Talk of the Nation. Ray Suarez was a good host, occasionally getting exasperated with the topic and/or guest with hilarious results. Juan Williams followed Suarez and was less interesting. Suarez went to Newshour, Williams went to Fox News and pretty much lost his mind.
Neal Conan didn't have much flavor to him, but I stuck with the program for years into his tenure. Then, between progressive radio starting up (R.I.P. Air America) and then podcasts I stopped listening to TOTN. Also, TOTN shifted to shorter segments. Instead of an hour spent on a single topic, an hour show was split into 2-3 topics. I liked the depth and the meandering that an hour on a single topic would sometime lead to. Kooks started creeping into the discussion. That made the program more fun.
I blamed that format change on Neal Conan, but given that NPR has dropped TOTN entirely (I don't think the ratings were bad) for a magazine format, it may have been a top-down decision.
Thank you Ray Suarez, Juan Williams, and Neal Conan. Talk of the Nation was a good program and the work of your teams was an important centerpoint of many days.