"Lynn Neary lifts the curtain

Every time you turn on National Public Radio lately, Lynn Neary seems to be there. As fill-in host of Morning Edition. Subbing for Scott Simon on Weekend Edition Saturday. Hosting Talk of the Nation.

Her actual full-time job is correspondent in NPR’s Arts and Information Unit. Neary, who came to Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago to visit WFYI-FM (90.1), describes herself as “a versatile player” and “a quick study” — which she’d have to be to juggle all those roles.

She sat down with NUVO for an interview.

NUVO: How has Joan Kroc’s $200 million gift affected NPR?

Neary: There’s been a little sigh of relief. I’ve been there since 1983, when literally we were borrowing paper from CBS across the street, when it looked like the place might not make it. I had just signed a lease on a house with a bunch of people. All of us were NPR employees, and the day we signed the lease it looked like we were all going to lose our jobs. There’s always been funding crises or threats of cutbacks. So I think it’s given everybody a sense of security.

It’s also allowed NPR to be able to do some of the amazing coverage they’ve done, particularly internationally. I think we would have tried to do this anyway, but it would have been a lot harder. We have staff in Baghdad all the time. We have reporters in 35 cities around the country. I don’t know the numbers before the Kroc gift, but certainly that kind of expansion had allowed us to be competitive.

Then we’ve also been giving fellowships to young people to train at NPR and learn about radio. So it’s enabling NPR to develop the next generation.

NUVO: When you visit member stations, what do people typically ask?

Neary: Everybody wants to know where the story ideas come from. And it’s such a hard question to answer. They come from over the transom, they come from press releases, they come from conversations you have with a friend.

And they want to know how NPR works. And that’s impossible to answer. I think the one thing people listening don’t realize entirely is that the shows have distinct personalities. There are a lot of little worlds at NPR, and they have to find ways to interact. And as we grow, more systems get put into place so the five daily shows aren’t all going after the same guests and stories.

NUVO: When you visit member stations, are you surprised by what you see?

Neary: It’s always amazing to me what stations are able to put out, sometimes with really limited resources. I went to a station in Connecticut where Frank DeFord records his commentaries. I don’t know if they’re still in the same place, but it was an old, split-level house they turned into a radio station. The studio’s in what used to be the garage. And I’ve been to stations that are in trailers. It’s amazing.



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