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'Talk of the Nation' Memories: We Changed Almost Everything

Scott Cameron is the senior editor at <em>Talk of the Nation</em>.
Jacques Coughlin
Scott Cameron is the senior editor at Talk of the Nation.

All this week, we are remembering our favorite moments from the 21-year-run of Talk of the Nation. With so many driveway moment-inducing interviews, hours of live breaking news, segments with familiar voices, and insights from audience members, it's hard to know where to start. So we asked a few of those who worked on Talk of the Nation over the years to share a story or two.

Scott Cameron has been the senior editor on Talk of the Nation since 2006. His favorite moment doesn't come from a particular interview or topic. But he told us about one moment that has led to many more unforgettable interviews. Here is his story:

I had a number of ideas in mind for memorable moments, but it occurs to me that they can all be traced back to one event that really sparked everything that came after.

About six years ago, TOTN's audience numbers started to dip. Listeners weren't connecting. The show didn't break through the clutter of midday programming. It was good, but didn't shine.

Our Executive Producer Sue Goodwin had a vision, one I think she still holds, that TOTN at its best was not about responding to the news of the day, it was about people's lives and stories and ideas and shared experiences. She gathered the senior team in a small conference room full of Sharpies and paper flip charts and sketched out that vision and a path to make it happen.

From that meeting, we changed almost everything: the questions we ask in editorial meetings, the news sources we follow, the way we focus and shape shows, the role of the host and the way we interact with the audience. From the very beginning, this was a group effort and Sue would be the first to acknowledge that, but I've always been amazed at what she accomplished in the years that followed almost by sheer force of will — and by the way she held on to that vision.

By every measure, that vision succeeded. TOTN signs off as one of the most successful public radio shows ever to air in the midday. It now has the highest number of listeners and stations in the show's history. And I'm sure Sue still has the notes from that small conference room where she sparked a total re-imagining of what talk radio could be.

What is the moment that made you a Talk of the Nation listener? Share your story in the comments.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Emily Hellewell
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