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Longtime NPR Staffer Neal Conan Dies At 71

Neal Conan at a <em>Talk of the Nation</em> staff meeting in 2006.
Jaques Coughlin
Neal Conan at a 'Talk of the Nation' staff meeting in 2006.

Neal Conan hosted 'Talk Of The Nation,' produced 'All Things Considered' and served as NRP news director during his 36 years at the network.

Neal Conan, one of National Public Radio's most versatile staffers, has died of brain cancer. He was 71.

Conan was best known for hosting NPR's Talk Of The Nation from Sept. 10, 2001, until it ended on June 27, 2013.

During his 36 years at NPR, he worked as the news director, managing editor, foreign editor, and as a line producer and executive producer of All Things Considered.

As a reporter, he covered the White House, Pentagon, State Department, presidential debates, President Bill Clinton's impeachment hearings, London, two Olympics and the Gulf War. Conan was captured and held for a week by the Iraqi Republican Guard in the final days of the Gulf War in 1991 along with New York Times reporter Chris Hedges.

And in the middle of his news career, the baseball lover took the year 2000 off to do minor league play-by-play for the Aberdeen Arsenal in Maryland. Conan described the experience in a book, Play by Play: Baseball, Radio and Life in the Last Chance League.

Conan started in radio at 17 volunteering at WBAI-FM in New York City. He pursued a broadcasting career instead of getting a college education. Before joining NPR in 1977, Conan won awards for his reporting in Northern Ireland on the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.

He left the network when NPR canceled Talk Of The Nation, instead accepting an offer to join Here & Now, the NPR co-production with Boston's WBUR-FM which replaced his show, according to Current.

Conan moved to a Hawaii macadamia nut farm and began producing the Pacific News Minute for Hawaii Public Radio. He also did a podcast and radio series, Truth, Politics and Power, with former NPR coworkers in 2017.

Hear clips of Conan's work in this personal remembrance by longtime friend Robert Siegel,who joined All Things Considered with Conan in 1977.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.