‘The Pub’ #30: Mike Pesca on life after NPR

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Mike Pesca wears a Pub t-shirt while interviewing a bottle of whiskey, as one does. (Photo: Andrea Silenzi, Slate)

Mike Pesca wears a Pub t-shirt while interviewing a bottle of whiskey, as one does. (Photo: Andrea Silenzi, Slate)

While Mike Pesca still makes regular appearances on NPR, he hasn’t worked there for a year and a half. But he still listens.

“I loved NPR, I still do,” Pesca told me on The Pub. “I kind of love it for its flaws, as well. Among them, a stodginess.”

Pesca, whose work as a sports correspondent for NPR was more bombastic and humorous than typical NPR fare, has been freer to cultivate his talents and eccentricities in his new primary gig, hosting The Gist podcast for Slate.

“For those of us who worked at [NPR’s] New York bureau with Mike, that he wasn’t given his own show was a source of constant confusion and frustration,” said Planet Money co-founder Adam Davidson, who left NPR not long after Pesca.

This week on The Pub, Pesca talks about life after NPR, how public media looks from the outside, his rabble-rousing interview with Kim Kardashian while sub-hosting Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me! and whether he thinks NPR has heeded his parting advice to be more ambitious and daring. (He doesn’t.)

“It seems like they have their things that work, and then they very, very cautiously — off the things that work — toe-touch into things very related to the things that work,” Pesca said of his former workplace.

Also on the show:

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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.

  • Dwight Bobson

    “I kind of love it for its flaws, as well.” Gee, I hope he is not referring to the creation and now constant use of the word “iconic.” NPR started using that word about 4 years ago. If I didn’t hear it 4-5 times a day, I felt wanting. Then it grew for about 2 years and I started to hear it on the commercial news nets. I think Brian Williams was the first to use it. After that it spread like wildfire. Today it is used in and on all media and at NPR every thing, every event, every person, every song and almost every word has become “iconic.” I just can’t wait until NPR creates another word to popularize until it too becomes iconically omnipresent. Iconically yours, Dwight.

    • Adam Ragusea

      I have no idea how you got from A to B on that.