- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2001


There may not have been many famous faces at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center Thursday night, but there were some very famous voices to be heard on the 30th anniversary of National Public Radio´s evening newsmagazine "All Things Considered." The event included a recapping of highlights from three decades of the show, which was followed by a panel discussion with "All Things Considered" hosts Noah Adams, Robert Siegel and Linda Wertheimer and executive producer Ellen Weiss, moderated by ABC newsman Ted Koppel.

They, along with former host Susan Stamberg (known for, among other things, her annual recitation of her mother-in-law´s famous cranberry relish recipe) and Bob Edwards from NPR´s "Morning Edition," were the stars of the evening, and the adoring audience responded in typical fashion with an extended standing ovation. Even Mr. Koppel found himself gushing, "I really do feel as though you are family."

He also had a confession to make: "We at 'Nightline´ have been stealing from you at 'All Things Considered´ for years."

More than 600 people paid $25 each to attend the tribute, which extolled the program´s popularity. (It is heard by 9.8 million people on more than 500 NPR member stations each week and has won more than 50 journalism awards.) The show boasts an audience that is both highly educated (NPR listeners, for example, are twice as likely as the average American to have bought a book in the past year) and, some say, very liberal. "Almost no other cultural enterprise has a similar pull on its audience," Brill´s Content magazine surmises in this month´s issue.

The gross flattery of the program, praised for being both erudite and lighthearted, was tempered by the hosts´ self-deprecating humor. When Mr. Koppel asked what they wear when they´re on the air, Mr. Siegel joked, "We have casual decades" instead of casual Fridays. To the crowd´s amusement, he didn´t dispel the notion that he had joined NPR 25 years ago mainly because the job offered good maternity benefits for his wife. Mr. Adams warned the crowd that although the hosts are known for their calm, soothing voices, if they sound too relaxed, it "could be a tip-off that they don´t know what´s happening."

The show hit the airwaves in 1971 with coverage of anti-war demonstrations in Washington, "to the delight of the nation´s up-to-then-starved informationaholics," according to NPR´s anniversary-related press release. It has since documented an eclectic mix of culture and news.

Some moments for the scrapbook: In 1978, the show broke precedent by broadcasting live from the Senate chamber during the Panama Canal Treaty debates; in 1988, producer Peter Breslow spent three months reporting his arduous trek across Tibet and up Mount Everest, surviving landslides and earthquakes; and in 1998, Mr. Siegel and Mara Liasson provided a live interview with President Clinton from the Oval Office on the very day the Monica Lewinsky story broke.

A retrospective video, "Sound News for 30 Years," pointed to some of the program´s goofier highlights, such as the segment about a woman who became a virtuoso on a toy piano and Mrs. Stamberg´s on-air test of the Wint-O-Green Lifesavers back in 1979. (Children were saying the candy created a spark if you bit it in the dark. Yes, Mrs. Stamberg reported, it did.)

At a post-panel reception, Mrs. Stamberg, who started as a host in 1972, named the Wint-O-Green story as one of her more memorable, along with Watergate. "We were so young then and so green," she said, referring to Watergate, not the mints. "It was terrifying."


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