Thu., June 27, 2013 6:38am (EDT)

Final Talk Of The Nation Airs Thursday
By Joshua Stewart
Updated: 1 year ago

ATLANTA  —  
NPR’s Talk of the Nation ends its 21-year run Thursday with newsman Ted Koppel and a farewell essay from host Neal Conan (above). The voice that has guided the show’s conversations and interviews for 11 years says he’s ready to step away from the daily grind but will miss stepping into the studio each day to have a national conversation. (Photo Courtesy of NPR.)
NPR’s Talk of the Nation ends its 21-year run Thursday with newsman Ted Koppel and a farewell essay from host Neal Conan (above). The voice that has guided the show’s conversations and interviews for 11 years says he’s ready to step away from the daily grind but will miss stepping into the studio each day to have a national conversation. (Photo Courtesy of NPR.)
Newsman Ted Koppel will be the guest on the final hour of Talk of the Nation Thursday.

Host Neal Conan will end the show with an essay.

But that’s all we know at this point about how the show that’s been a midday mainstay on NPR stations around the country for 21 years will end.

“One of the things I’ve been able to do is: ‘I’ve got another show tomorrow, I’ve got another show tomorrow,’ so you focus on tomorrow’s show,” Conan said this week. “It’s going to be Friday or it’s probably going to be a little bit after that it sort of sinks in there aren’t any more shows to get ready for.”

Conan has been hosting the show for 11 years and said he’s ready for a break from the grind of preparing for usually 16 topics over eight shows a week. But he’ll also miss it.

“Getting ready to do it – I don’t think I’m going to miss that. Doing it – I am very sure I will miss a great deal,” Conan said. “It is enormous fun to go in the studio where I have some belief that sort of I know what I’m doing.”

NPR announced in March Talk of the Nation (TOTN in public radio parlance) would wind down at the end of June to make way for a new program, Here & Now, produced in partnership with WBUR in Boston. That show will be a newsmagazine more closely echoing Morning Edition and All Things Considered through the day. (GPB, by the way, is considering a range of programs to fill the 2 p.m. timeslot, including Here & Now.) Science Friday with Ira Flatow will continue at its usual time.

Conan – who has worked at NPR for 36 years as a reporter, producer and host – plans to depart the network. He hopes to write a book and spend more time in Wyoming. He lamented the end of a national call-in program to foster discussion, but he wouldn’t criticize NPR’s decision.

“Everybody’s an expert on their own lives, and the great value of a show like Talk of the Nation is the ability [of] callers and guests to tell stories about their own lives and tell other people things they never knew, including me,” Conan said. “Those sorts of things are absolutely vital. They’re sort of the tissue of our democracy, as we understand other people’s lives a little bit better.

“I think there is something lost if we don’t do that.”

Once that national conversation ends Thursday, Conan said he’s looking forward to catching up on his sleep and at least six months of travel and relaxation.

“The last couple of summers, I’ve had the opportunity to get up to different parts of Alaska, and I’m going to get the chance to do that again in August, and [I’m] looking very much forward to that,” he said.