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He Spent a Decade Talking to the Nation

Longtime NPR journalist Neal Conan dies of brain cancer at 71
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 12, 2021 12:02 PM CDT
He Spent a Decade Talking to the Nation
Neal Conan is shown at the 2012 Collegiate Inventors Competition in Washington, DC.   (Wikimedia)

(Newser) – You may not have recognized his face, but you probably knew his voice. Neal Conan, who hosted the popular NPR show Talk of the Nation for 11 years until its 2013 end, died Tuesday at age 71. Conan's son, Connor, revealed the longtime radio journalist died of glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, at his home in Hawaii, per the Hill. He'd started on the air as a volunteer at his local public radio station at just 17. He joined NPR as a producer in 1977 before turning correspondent, per the Washington Post. He covered Olympic Games, Supreme Court nominations, a presidential impeachment, and wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. It was while covering the 1991 Gulf War in southern Iraq that he became one of 40 journalists taken hostage by the Iraqi Republican Guard. They were released nearly a week later.

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He later became NPR bureau chief in New York and London and an executive producer of NPR's evening news program All Things Considered. Its longtime co-host, Robert Siegel, described him as a "funny, smart and 100% radio, with an incurable curiosity and the silvery voice of an Irish tenor" in an on-air tribute. He said Conan told his nephew, former NPR journalist JJ Sutherland, earlier this year that he wanted to be remembered for his part in establishing "a really important news organization in this country," which is more vital now than ever. In a statement, Sutherland noted Conan was "NPR's second foreign correspondent ever." Talk of the Nation was airing on 407 stations when it came to an end in 2013. Conan then moved to Hawaii, where he farmed macadamia nuts and hosted Pacific News Minute on Hawaii Public Radio. (Read more obituary stories.)

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