Robert Siegel to leave NPR

The sudden infusion and meaning of a more youthful sound on NPR in the last few years couldn’t really be ignored, especially if you still have one foot in the iconic past of public radio. Time cannot be stopped. We knew what was coming.

New hosts were introduced in late 2015 providing for more diversity. Four hosts meant less time for All Things Considered host Robert Siegel and it was only a matter of time before he stepped aside.

Today, NPR announced that Siegel’s 30 years as host of All Things Considered is ending. His last day on the job will be next January.

“This is a decision long in the making and not an easy one. I’ve had the greatest job I can think of, working with the finest colleagues anyone could ask for, for as long a stretch as I could imagine,” Robert says. “But, looking ahead to my seventies (which start all too soon) I feel that it is time for me to begin a new phase of life. Over the next few months, I hope to figure out what that will be.”

This is the reality of the working world and particularly so in the news business. One day you wake up and you’re the oldest person there.

The new hosts and youthful faces of NPR are as talented as they come, offering a new perspective and fresh voices that NPR — public media — desperately needed.

But they’re not Siegel. Not yet, anyway.

  1. Listen Robert Siegel’s postcard from Paris

    November 20, 2015

Siegel is old school. He doesn’t vote in primary elections, for example. He will only vote in general elections.

“While one of the functions of journalism is to reach out to people who might not bring their curiosity with them at full bore, we also should accept that some people really don’t care about these things,” he lamented in 2014, sounding as if he feared for the future of his industry if it began to cater to those people.

Change is good, of course. But so is a little sameness and dependability and the wisdom of institutional memory. We’ll miss the avuncular passenger on the ride home each afternoon.

There’s something about a radio station that connects you, Siegel said of his industry. That something is someone like Siegel, with whom we shared the daily triumphs and tragedies.

In time, we’ll look at the new generation of radio companions the same way. But it’ll never be quite the same once the people who built NPR move along.

Man, we had it good.

  • Mike Worcester

    It was quite fun this morning listening to Cathy W. play a cut of a “22-year old” Gary Eichten when he was but a college student at St. Johns. Fascinating to wonder who would have thought that ‘kid’ would become a broadcast giant like he did. Makes you wonder how NPR vets thirty years ago looked at Robert Siegel when he started. I’m glad they took a chance on him and it makes me wonder how in twenty years we will view this newish crop of NPR voices.

    • I think it’s going to be harder for anyone to stay in a position for 30 years at a place like NPR. TV is calling and it’s hard to keep people down on the farm once they experience the bright lights. I think the continuity will be very difficult to maintain.

      • jon

        Any idea what percentage of new hires from ’87 for NPR are still there now?
        Was it ever likely that anyone would stay there for 30 years?
        Is Siegel an outlier already?

        Related, Job switching in general is on a downward trend, not sure if the general trend is applicable to public radio types or not….

        “…consistent with a decline in employer switching among all working-age adults since the 1980s.” http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/19/millennials-arent-job-hopping-any-faster-than-generation-x-did/

        • Sure it was. The construction of the radio world up until the 90s was that everyone wanted to get to a network at either New York or Washington. There was a discernable bottom run and a discernable top rung. That is no longer the case.

  • KariBemidji

    We HAVE it good. It’s just different.

  • jon

    The boomers are retiring…

    Half my team left or retired, at work over the last 2 years, average age here is down into the gen-x range now. only a few boomers left.

    Been ages since some one at work has shown my pictures of their grandkids.

    Instead I get to hear about actually kids… children, none of them even driving yet. Lot’s of youth sports talk…

    With 15-30 years to go till retirement (depending on numerous factors) the work environment is going to flip at least one more time for me… which will be good I’m looking forward to getting back to going to happy hours instead of talking about what youth sports events everyone is driving too…

  • Zachary

    He’ll just take over with a “host emeritus” position at ATC, right? That’s how it goes, right, you either do that or a game show, or move to Russia?

    Having grown up around Public Radio, him and Kassle and Flintoff are the voices I remember the most of (from the ‘national’ team). That and the movie critic guy, Bob Mondello. (is he still around? does NPR do movie reviews? (Not talking Cube Critics – national ones?)) Plenty of local hosts, however.

    Public Radio does seem to be changing – the old guard are leaving (APHC), and yet I still don’t know if there is anyone current who I would consider ‘future old-guard’. Maybe others have keyed into that, but I haven’t yet.

    Best Wishes Robert!

    • Other than Cokie, I don’t know of anyone who retires/leaves NPR and still is heard on it.

      • Zachary

        I guess I thought they had all retired.

      • lisa

        Garrison is on every weekend (at least in Minnesota-its a little eerie) So are the Car talk guys.

        • KTFoley

          Aren’t those re-runs, rather than a new role for a retired/departed host?

          Those old APHC episodes inspire a little “get gone already” twitch in me, but must be a sop to some portion of the audience who apparently can’t be trusted to appreciate the new host.

          On the other hand, I never have never understood why we need to devote three time slots per weekend to APHC, new or old. Are there numbers to back up the notion that hours 5&6 on Sunday night are what drag us back from the brink of insolvency?

          • They have to runte old ones because Thile’s season was only 13 weeks. Next season it’s 26.

          • KTFoley

            My mistake — I was under the impression that even on weeks where there was a current Thile show, the Sunday night broadcast was still a Keillor re-run.

            Guaranteeing the minimum dosage to every Minnesotan must have an effect on other programming choices — what doesn’t make it into the pipeline? how are new or emerging programs supported to become the next set of established audience draws?

            My sense is that in the Twin Cities, other stations make that happen. APHC’s weight on the schedule led me to John Pizzarrelli & Jessica Molaskey on KBEM, radio broadcasts of baseball games, and that handy Off button.

          • There you go. Choice. Unfortunately, radio isn’t an on-demand product in an on-demand world.

  • Al
  • Anna

    “Change is good, of course. But so is a little sameness and dependability and the wisdom of institutional memory.”

    To feel secure and happy people do need “sameness and dependability.”

    For my entire adulthood, the long-time program hosts of NPR—Robert Siegel, Nina Totenberg, Susan Stamford, Renee Montaigne and a host of others made me feel that no matter what chaos was happening in the world or the nation, everything was going to be alright.

    The wisdom that comes with age cannot be underestimated. However, even good things come to an end eventually and others take their place.

    I’m getting used to the new voices on NPR and hopefully they will provide the stability and dependability for upcoming generations that they did for me.

    Good luck to you, Robert. It’s been a great ride.