The return of Michele Norris

Sorry, Michele Norris fans. The Minnesota-born journalist is out as anchor of NPR’s All Things Considered. Sort of.

Norris stepped down from the high-profile gig in 2011 after her husband took a job as a senior strategist in the Barack Obama re-election campaign. It was a situation that played into the perception that NPR is staffed by Democratic operatives.

In her new role at NPR, announced today, she’ll pursue stories that stem from her “Race Card Project,” which began after her book , The Grace of Silence, was published in 2010. She’ll also do some guest hosting.

Here’s the NPR memo:


NPR HOSTING NEWS: MICHELE NORRIS TAKES ON EXPANDED NEW ROLE FOR NPR

AUDIE CORNISH APPOINTED CO-HOST OF “ALL THINGS CONSIDERED”

RACHEL MARTIN NAMED TO “WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY”

January 3, 2013; Washington, D.C. – NPR News is announcing new appointments for three of its newsmagazine hosts: Michele Norris returns from a leave of absence to take on an expanded new role as a host and special correspondent; Audie Cornish will stay on as co-host of All Things Considered; and Rachel Martin anchors the week as host of Weekend Edition Sunday. Norris returns to the air fulltime in February; Cornish and Martin have been serving as interim hosts of their respective programs.

“Taken together, these three represent the journalistic depth and power of NPR News,” said Margaret Low Smith, SVP of NPR News. “We’re incredibly lucky to have such gifted journalists. Each of them has extraordinary range and the ability to connect with audiences in meaningful ways. I’m looking forward to this next chapter for all three.”

As host and special correspondent, Norris will produce in-depth profiles, interviews and series, and regularly guest host NPR News programs. One of her focuses will be “The Race Card Project,” an initiative to foster a wider conversation about race in America that Norris began after her 2010 family memoir The Grace of Silence. More than 14,000 people from all over the world have participated, sharing their experiences and thoughts about race in just six words. Norris will develop features around “Race Card” on NPR.org and create related radio segments in addition to producing in-depth profile segments on newsmakers. She will also continue the popular “Backseat Book Club” on All Things Considered, inviting young listeners to read and discuss new books with one another and often the authors. Norris joined NPR in 2002 to host All Things Considered, and during nearly a decade with the show, interviewed world leaders, Nobel laureates and American presidents. She has also reported on Katrina survivors, women in combat, race and politics, and the struggles and successes of everyday people. Norris returns to the air fulltime in February after a sabbatical spent developing “The Race Card Project.”

Cornish, who has been on assignment with All Things Considered since January 2012, will remain the show’s co-host. Together with hosts Robert Siegel and Melissa Block, she will continue to bring a distinctive range of interviews, ideas and interests to the signature afternoon newsmagazine. Cornish has been a host and reporter for NPR since 2006. She became the new voice for Sunday mornings in September 2011 as host of Weekend Edition Sunday; there, she developed new features and segments and a loyal following. Cornish previously reported on Capitol Hill and the 2008 presidential election, and for three years, covered the southern U.S. from a base in Nashville.

In turn, Martin will stay on as the host of Weekend Edition Sunday, where she’s been filling in while Cornish has been with All Things Considered. Martin previously covered military and intelligence issues as a National Security Correspondent, drawing on a decade of experience reporting all over the world. She was part of the team that launched NPR’s experimental morning show, The Bryant Park Project, was an NPR international correspondent based in Berlin, and reported on religion for the network. Martin was also a White House correspondent for ABC News. Her keen intellect, editorial range and warm presence make her an ideal companion for Sunday mornings.

  • Chuck

    Norris’s book, The Grace of Silence, is a wonderful memoir of life in Minneapolis and Birmingham, AL. She paints a gripping picture not only of her own life as a black woman in a white northern city but also of her family’s life in Jim Crow Alabama, and of the secrets she uncovered while digging into her past.

    It’s great that she’s coming back on the air. I could listen to her voice all day long.

  • Kevin Watterson

    These situations are always difficult. Locally we had one with the Kupchellas early in Pawlenty’s term. I find it hard to say one spouse should be “punished” for another’s job unless there is a situation where legal issues might exist. But at the same time one can’t be ignorant to the obvious perception.