‘Takeaway’ host Hockenberry to step down in August

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"It is important to know when to move on," Hockenberry said.

WNYC announced Friday that host John Hockenberry is leaving The Takeaway.

“Ultimately, in every challenging career, there comes a time when it is important to know when to move on,” Hockenberry told client stations in the announcement.

Hockenberry added that he wants to “directly experience how the media, citizens, and people in power can come together in new ways to create the functioning democracies of the 21st century.”

The news show, a co-production of the New York station and Public Radio International, premiered in 2008 as a conversational and interactive alternative to NPR’s Morning Edition. Initially helmed by Hockenberry and co-hosts, including Celeste Headlee, the program was pared back and revamped into a midday show.

“I have put more of myself and more than 30 years of accumulated wisdom about broadcast radio storytelling into The Takeaway,” Hockenberry said. “It is a more personal statement about what I believe radio, and particularly public radio, should be than anything I have ever done.”

The Takeaway’s Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich will host as WNYC searches for Hockenberry’s replacement. Hockenberry’s final broadcasts will air the week of Aug. 7.

Hockenberry spent 12 years as an NPR correspondent starting in 1980. He also reported for NBC News and ABC News before joining WNYC in 2007.

Dean Cappello, WNYC chief content officer, called Hockenberry “an original thinker and broadcaster. His love of radio is second to none, and his drive and personality helped bring the show to the point where it is today. His relentless pursuit of the truth is something we will carry forward.”

WNYC said The Takeaway “is at a high point in its evolution,” with 2.7 million weekly listeners and carriage on more than 270 stations.

  • noteman42

    ??? I thought the program always ran for 3 hours, from 11 to 2.

    • MarkJeffries

      It went down to an hour when transitioned from a morning drive competitor to “ME” to a midday program. You may remember that it started out competing with NPR’s “The Bryant Park Project” in the younger demo morning show sweepstakes, with no real success from either show in audience or station clearance (and an attempt by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters to get community stations to pick up the show only revealed how much the hardcore at “community” radio hates professional public radio).

      • Brad Deltan

        Yes, it used to be live from 6-8am ET, and then it would repeat from 8-10am with light updates.

        It was highly unfortunate that very few public radio outlets supported The Takeaway in its morning show form, it was an excellent program. Rather different from Morning Edition…much more like a commercial news radio morning show but with public radio values and quality. Not everyone’s cup of tea, obviously, but that was the point: it was reaching out to listeners other than the core audience.

        • Martha Garvey

          Yes, it also used to have a female co-host.

          • Fred Bates

            “Going up” is said in a female voice in the NPR elivators. There seems to be pressure on NPR to have female voices, regardless of experience or training. Too often you will hear the host’s voice rather than her guest’s. And there’s mansplaining?…

          • What does a woman’s voice in the NPR elevator have to do with anything else you said? How do you detect “pressure on NPR” to have female voices?

          • Susie Smith

            Some of the women’s voices sound annoying. NOT all voices are fit for radio. A good radio voice should be a skill set for males and females.

          • Donald Royer

            which ones. I find them totally refreshing !

          • Fred Bates

            Meghna Chakrabarti, a host of Radio Boston, comes to mind as a host promoted due to her gender and not for her journalistic chops.

            She is academically accomplished, however she does not possess a journalism degree.
            My reporting knowledge is limeted to a Reporting 101 course 40 years ago. Nevertheless, in that class we were taught that the art of reporting, in print or in other media, includes questioning your guests, listening for thier answers, and not interjecting yourself into the story.

            Conversely, Megnha Chakrabarti often interrupts her guests, and then, as I referenced in my comment, occupies the limeted seconds of her interview.

            I’m not going to get caught in the trap of well, because she’s a woman I don’t like having this other voices. If she were male I would still would take exception to a host injecting thier opinions versus exploring topics with thire guests. A reporter who interprets and talks over their guests, is akin to a therapist interpreting and talking over their client. Though this dynamic is the opposite of active listening, it is Megatalk Chakrabarti.

          • Adam Ragusea

            First, let me cop to my bias: I know Chakrabarti, I worked with her for a number of years, and I respect her immensely. She may be the most impressive colleague I’ve ever had.

            Even if that weren’t the case, Fred, I think I would still find your comment quite objectionable.

            First of all, a huge percentage of people in journalism don’t have journalism degrees. John Hockenberry majored in math and music. I majored in music, and now I’m on the journalism faculty of a university. Journalism is more of a trade than a profession, and there are many valid paths into it.

            Second, if you’d taken anything beyond that “Reporting 101” course 40 years ago, you might have considered the fact that there are many different kinds of interview situations, and they often require a different approach. There are many interviewing situations where it’s necessary for the interviewer to interject.

            On live radio, which is what Chakrabarti does most of the time, you have to interject a lot because you have to keep things moving. You can’t let one guest dominate or drift off topic because you only have exactly 7:30 for the segment (or whatever the length may be) and you need to keep things on track.

            It’s also often necessary to interject when interviewing powerful people who are obfuscating, evading, or filibustering. You’ve got to cut them off in order to hold them accountable, which is your job as a journalist. The job of a journalist is not only to allow people to express themselves — that’s stenography. It’s also to poke, probe, scrutinize — all things that often require interjection.

            Interjecting your own perspective can also serve to set a more conversational, informal tone in interview situations where that would be appropriate, and to help draw a guest out.

            Certainly, Hockenberry is a host who interjects a lot in his interviews, often with things that could be characterized as his own opinion. And yet, you’ve chosen to criticize Chakrabarti for doing it, even though you’re commenting on an article about Hockenberry. That’s pretty weird.

          • Fred Bates

            Thank you for your reasoned reply.
            I am painfully aware of interviewees filibustering and obfuscatng. For years Condoleezza Rice did that, and the press often failed to interject, and so failed to speak truth to power.
            My beef with Megnah is that she can begin an interview with laying down so much backround it leaves her guests not much to unpack.
            Another chattered is New Hamshire”s Laura Knoy. Some time ago I stopped listening to her after she asked in an nterview with a presidential canidate, “what if somebody doesn’t want to keep up with all these details in order to make a decision on who to vote for?” Maybe I stopped listening to her after her interview with then presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich when she laughed off his candidacy because of his low poll numbers. Kucinich came back with the facts that she was unprepared to deal with .
            Other female Talent who are on the air because, well, no one has the guts to say their egos might be in the way of reporting because, well, they’re female Talent?
            There’s Cokie Roberts who. I never fails to fail in, by taking what would appeat to be “the middle of the road”, accually vears right.
            One recent example can be found in her “Ask Cokie” segment where she exaulted the Electoral College. Then there was the time she said that it was a “tragedy” for the Democratic party to have not elected Joseph Lieberman in a primary due to his pro Iraq war stance.
            I’m done wieghing in on my opinions on some female radio talent that are on with egos that can’t be questioned because well they’re female radio Talent.

          • Susie Smith

            I agree with you.

    • Brad Deltan

      If you’re listening on WGBH proper, you might be confusing it with “Boston Public Radio”, which is their midday talk show with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan. The Takeaway airs on WGBH from 10-11am and again from 2-3pm, but I think it distributes nationally at 9-10am ET on the public radio satellite system.

  • Terry L

    I will miss John Hockenberry… his depth of knowledge, genuine questioning, realism and amazing voice. WYNC , NPR and his loyal audience will suffer the loss. Hoping we will hear him in other venues soon.

  • The first anchor with disabilities. Due to those, he always has a commitment with public radio listeners, especially from ‘GBH. Thank you John. We will miss you. 😢 But if your period on the TakeAway are over, we want you on ‘GBH as a new anchor for All Things Considered if Barbara Howard is away sometimes. Thank for your support.

  • singadude

    Very sad to read of John’s departure. He hosted a very intelligent and mentally stimulating program.

    • Susie Smith

      Indeed.

  • Jill Center

    Sad that he is departing. Though, with experience as a guide, John Hockenberry always turns up in the most wonderful ways. Looking forward to his next era!

  • Susie Smith

    His voice is uniquely associated with “The Takeaway.” He is going to be missed. Good luck, John.

  • Donald Royer

    Great great intellectual and interviewer !

  • Robert J. Crawford

    The Takeaway is by far my favorite podcast. I eagerly await what John will create next.

  • Kathy Dunn

    So sorry to hear him announce this on the show. Have followed Hockenberry his whole career…hope he is not retiring, but instead will be taking on some new project.

  • Antonio Cardenas

    I will miss my pod cast buddy. I work alone in the afternoon. He has been my educated & articulate coworker keeping me company in the afternoons. He will be missed.

  • gavince

    I have enjoyed listening to John’s broadcasts for-approximately-ever. Will miss him greatly and hope he comes back on the air soon.