Joshua Johnson to leave ‘1A’ for MSNBC

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Joshua Johnson will end his nearly three-year run as founding host of the national talk show 1A to become an anchor at MSNBC, where he has been a contributor since 2018.

Johnson will step down Dec. 20, according to a press release from WAMU in Washington, D.C., which produces 1A. NPR distributes the show.

WAMU will continue producing the two-hour weekday show and is working with NPR to find a new host.

1A proves that public media is well equipped to meet the nation’s need for news and information, including adapting to our changing times,” Johnson said in the release. “We built something amazing, with a uniquely diverse and creative team, providing a space where anyone, anywhere can speak freely. I’m proud to have helped build that, and I look forward to seeing what 1A will become.”

1A debuted on 169 stations in January 2017 as the successor of the Diane Rehm Show. It now airs on 368 stations with 4 million weekly listeners to the broadcast and on on-demand platforms, according to WAMU. The program, whose name refers to the First Amendment, covers a broad range of subjects. Recent topics have included the “OK Boomer” meme, Alabama football and mass incarceration. 

With the help of a $750,000 CPB grant, 1A started a two-year editorial partnership in 2018 with six public radio stations to bring local perspectives on issues to the show.

Todd Zwillich, who has been a fill-in host for the show and an interim host of WNYC’s The Takeaway, will be interim host of 1A beginning in January, a WAMU spokesperson told Current. WAMU will feed reruns of the show between Johnson stepping down and Zwillich taking over as interim host.

66 thoughts on “Joshua Johnson to leave ‘1A’ for MSNBC

  1. I don’t see this as a loss.
    Recent fill-in hosts, especially Todd Z, have been more than capable.
    I would like to see Todd in the slot permanently. He never has had the pedantic, condescending, let-me-teach-you-something tone that I heard from Joshua.

  2. I agree. The show was conventional and Joshua’s constant focus on “both sides” got old fast. Please find a host that doesn’t try so hard.

  3. Right. Why would we want to hear from “both sides?” Tune into Fox news for a more palatable “one and only one side.”

    Clearly, you miss the point of a show name 1-A.

  4. I always enjoyed Todd Z when he was interim host on the Takeaway and wish he would have remained. Hopefully they will recognize his value on A1 and offer him the full time host role.

  5. Find a female host it makes more sense giving the time period and since the show was run before by the famous Diane Rhem. So many men already have a dominate voice. I did not enjoy Johnson at all he was to preachy and acted like he was an expert on everything. NPR can do better. Good Luck MSNBC you will need it.

    • Maureen, I can’t disagree more. Respectfully to you and the many great female hosts and reporters on NPR, the pendulum is swinging too far in the opposite direction: Once there was an over-use of male voices, and now NPR has too many women. I loved Diane Rheam, and I really respect and enjoy many other female hosts very much. But there are several excellent males who could carry on Joshua Johnson’s superb hosting of 1A. My choice would be Tod Zwillich. He’s an excellent on-air personality! At the same time, I will miss Joshua J. very, very much. I do wish he wasn’t leaving! Great job, Joshua Johnson! Congratulations on your place with MSNBC! You deserve it!

      • We can agree to disagree but in all honesty the media industry is still male dominated and we have sometime to go to achieve a balance. So I NPR wakes up and sees the light and you as well.

        • Yes Maureen we need another white woman, perhaps older to inherit the throne of the great queen Diane. Someone who will be like a mom or close friend like Queen Di. No more of those men and definitely not a person of color who might add to the diversity of NPR. Heaven forbid.

          • Never said the new host had to be white any color is fine with me. I had nothing against Joshua in terms of his color or his sexual orientation but more his tendency to talk to much over his guests

  6. Johnson announced that the show and his departure were not about him. How revealing! It is all about him. He is now “bigger” than a radio show that hand been mediocre since he took over after all. He would be a good fit for MSNBC however.

    • I am older even than The Boomers. I have greatly appreciated Joshua’s programming on 1A. He often presents guests of diverse backgrounds who have points of view that are not represented in my every day human interactions. Joshua himself, in his candid and direct approach to controversial issues, has helped me to consider some of my own biases. In common with many in my generation, I loved Diane Rehm. Her program was familiar and comfortable. However, as we age, it can be too easy to stay in a comfortable rut. Joshua’s approach has been dynamic and sometimes challenging. I will miss him very much.

      BTW, I hope whoever is the new host will continue Joshua’s approach to taking time at the top of the hour to respond/reflect on current newsworthy events even when that means the scheduled program will be somewhat curtailed.

      • I do have to agree with Jo Cone regarding her analysis of both the program and the need for all of us to be exposed to new points of view and new topics. Joshua has done a wonderful job of both hosting and choosing guest hosts. Todd will continue to do a fantastic job until he or another is chosen as the next host. Wishing Joshua the best in his new position and I hope he will be a guest on the 1A from time to time!

      • I agree w you! I think Mr.Johnson gave wonderful 360° to all view points. I happen to multi racial and I believe he is as well. He NEVER pulled the bias during interviews nor ever showed anger. He had a terrific speaking voice, was ALWAYS kind and generous in offering each to share their viewpoints.

        What the HEY is wrong with some of these people. Let’s see how THEY do running a talk show w the diversity and great insight as Mr. JOHNSON. I’m ashamed at the cruelty and nastiness of some of these people!

        Congratulations Joshua! May you keep doin what yoy do as EXCELLENTLY as you aways have!
        Blessings, Happy Holidays,
        Mae LeBlanc & Princess
        Los Angeles

        • Joshua could be guilty of a bit of ‘uptalk’ from time to time. He needs to work on that to have a stronger speaking voice.

      • I am with you. I have loved Joshua Johnson. Always prepared, very cool and calm on the air. I love the new look and feel of the program and going in a different direction. I was a Diane Ream fan but, it was time for a new voice and direction for the future. Good Luck Joshua and hope to continue seeing you on Meet the Press from time to time

  7. I can only hope the new show/host will improve err replace The Facebook Page show. I never once heard Diane Rhem mention much less harp repeatedly about her show’s “Facebook Page”….

  8. I was crestfallen when Diane Rehm left. She was a warm, familiar voice in my home every morning. I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to take her place. But then came Joshua Johnson. Surprisingly, I quickly embraced him, and he has become a welcome addition to my trusted information sources. I love his presentation manner. I will miss him on NPR. He has done a great job, and he can be very proud of the contributions he has made there. I honestly don’t understand why some other listeners describe him as condescending and pedantic or egoistic. I always viewed him as learned, sincere, and well-prepared.

    Good luck, Joshua. You deserve all the best.

  9. Will not be missed. The relentless pro-black and gay perspective became quite predictable and tiresome.

    • Sorry that you see it that way. It seems that it is not Joshua who has the problem, but you. Nothing wrong with mentioning pro-black and gay perspectives. They are part of our society, even if you don’t want to hear it.

    • This comment is unfortunate. I agree he will not be missed. But it’s because he lacked analytic rigor and insights, not because he brought a black or gay perspective to things. It is true that a heavy proportion of social and political discourse is falling back on “lived experience” as opposed to learned and broadly-informed thinking. Johnson is a good example of this, clearly having very little to draw on in terms of knowledge of history, politics, literature etc. The man speaks as though he has read almost nothing. You can get away with this and be successful on MSNBC or Fox. NPR is not a good venue for him.

      • Oh now he is a stupid black gay man. Amy your fragility is showing. Perhaps a stiff drink to comfort the fact for three years a different perspective that you probably didn’t know existed was foisted upon your fragile self. Queen Diane come back.

        • You clearly misunderstand who you’re in dialogue with here. Regardless, I’ll restate: “perspectives” are mostly worthless, and you might do well to let go of that concept; well-reasoned arguments that aim at distinguishing what’s true from what’s false are what have value. Johnson is very weak in that area. But the link between that deficiency and other of Johnson’s characteristics (race, sexuality) exists only in your mind.

          • Let’s look at your words Amy since you cited reading as one of Johnson’s shortfalls “Johnson is a good example of this, clearly having very little to draw on in terms of knowledge of history, politics, literature etc. The man speaks as though he has read almost nothing. You can get away with this and be successful on MSNBC or Fox. NPR is not a good venue for him.” I would really love for you to support this because I have heard a very broad based perspective and questions that expand the dialogue. I presume that you only seek to hear those things that support the white supremacist viewpoints that you hold dear.

  10. Diane Rehm’s professionalism, in-depth exploration, and insightful questions was totally lost when Joshua showed up. His self-promotion, mansplaining, and condescending attitude will not be missed! Let’s hope the powers that be find some 1/2 as good as Diane

    • I loved Diane Rehm too. Even when you could not hardly understand her because of her vocal condition. I loved her even when it took her forever to get a question out. I loved her even when she was promoting her books. Even when she was preachy or arrogant with callers and when we never heard the other side of the story. I loved the fact that a woman who never went to college could be seen for her intellect and personality. What saddens me is that many of those who comment on this Black gay man who had the audacity to ascend to Diane’s sacred space after her decades is being demeaned by many, many fragile whites who can’t believe they gave the show to Black man. Shame on all of you and you know who are.

    • Yes!!!!! We need an eighty year old woman with a raspy voice and slow cadence for today’s news. I know who we should get. Although she is not 80 but she is mature, Susan Page!!!!

  11. Be well Joshua. Whoever writes the story tells the narrative. You wrote into areas that haven’t been in the mainstream, and as a result I learned a lot. I hope you can do the same and More at MSNBC.

  12. Joshua Johnson is one of my favorite hosts on radio today. He is intelligent and real. He is an effective live host. That is a unique talent. Many NPR reporters are incredibly smart but don’t have the skill to do a live show. He is open to new platforms that compliment radio, like social media. NPR’s older listeners may not like NPR’s realization that it must reach younger audiences beyond traditional radio but get over it! Realize a newer audience must be reached to maintain public radio financial support in the future.

    He doesn’t just focus on black or gay issues. Unfortunately we live in a time where people would label him that way just because he does a few shows on that issue. How sad and worrisome. What’s pro-black anyway? You want him to do some anti-black and anti-gay shows?

    I didn’t think anyone could replace Diane Rehm when she left. I didn’t even give Joshua a chance at first. Then I listened with an open mind and he became one of my public radio favorites!

    Thank you, Joshua, for your public service. You will be missed!

    • I so agree. I looked forward every day to listening to his show. Hopefully, he will be sucessful at MSNBC, and his replacement will be as engaging.

  13. Joshua did not fill Diane Rehm’s shoes but his shoes were different and he will be a hard act to follow. I was always amazed at the breadth of his knowledge. Good luck Joshua, you will be missed!!

  14. What the hell are all these negative comments? ! I love Joshua Johnson. He brought out sides of a story that didn’t always get told. He did it with professionalism and grace, and I might add a refreshing sense of humor. I applaud him and wish him well in his well deserved career!

  15. I appreciate the opportunity to read the various opinions. Whether you like or dislike Joshua Johnson, the good thing is you are blessed to be in a country that allowed you to give your opinion. As for me, I am appreciative of that fact. Because without different individuals and opinions, the world would be quite boring. So, thanks to each individual for their comments; with each, I’ve become a little bit more learned and tolerant.
    Joshua I thoroughly enjoyed your show; and you were an intricate part of my day. I wish you success in your new endeavor and God’s speed.

  16. I am surprised and sad to learn that Joshua is leaving the show. I enjoyed his approach addressing to difficult issues. I will miss him. Just like I miss Diane Rehm. Good luck Joshua and best wishes as you embark on your new adventure.

  17. Sorry to hear that Joshua is leaving. I though the was great as the host of 1A. Todd Z would make a great host different than Joshua but still good.
    I wish Joshua all the best. This show will not be the same without him.
    I will turn to MSNBC to see how he does as an anchor.

  18. I learned so much from you and the guests. You and Diane Rehm were guides and very often I went to my library to search out the books you discussed.
    The Gypsies say Latcho drom, meaning safe passage.
    Onward to you.

  19. I’m surprised to read the level of conceit and bitterness towards Joshua that some have chosen to post. One thing that I can say about Joshua’s 1A, as I am a young and progressive African American female, I appreciated Joshua truly tackling the topics that we face today, never shying away from difficult conversations. This may have been Diane Rehm’s time slot, but as the saying goes “when you know better, you should do better”. Thank you NPR for doing just that. You will be missed Joshua! Best wishes in your new endeavors. MSNBC will be blessed to have you. Thank you for doing the work!

  20. Joshua Johnson was my favorite person on NPR. A much needed voice and perspective on the station. I was truly saddened to hear he’s leaving but I’m happy his career is progressing. Can’t wait to see what he does next.

  21. I found Joshua to be an articulate and incisive host and did a great job considering the shoes he had to fill in that time slot. I wish him the best in his new venture.

  22. Like many others, I am stunned to see the negative criticisms directed at Joshua Johnson. He is bright, articulate, well-prepared, knowledgeable, balanced, interesting, and fair. He covered a wide range of topics, and I always learned something from his show – despite the fact that I am well-read and have 23 years of education. His shows proved that, no matter how much education we have, there are always things for us to learn. He did not pontificate. He was not arrogant or condescending. He educated the public about many issues with the assistance of his guests and audience members, who added their own perspectives or asked their own questions. He is superior to a great many people who have talk shows.

    I think his “mistake” was in disclosing upfront that he is gay. I also think that he probably expected that NPR audiences would be educated, tolerant, compassionate, understanding, fair, and that they would look beyond his personal life to the content of his programs and the manner in which they were presented. It is disappointing to know that he would not be allowed the very same considerations that all of us would want for ourselves.

    Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We all have many things for which to be grateful. I would like to propose that we celebrate this special holiday by trying to find less fault, appreciating the good in all others, allowing others to live their own lives, realizing the fact that we do not have to agree on every issue, and by evaluating others based solely upon the content of their character and the quality of work that they do, nothing else. Isn’t that what we would all want for ourselves? If so, can we not give that to others?

    As I said before, you did a wonderful job, Joshua. I do not have cable, so I will miss hearing your discussions. Hopefully, I will see you on some of the PBS news programs. You will always have a place at the table in my home, no matter the topic and no matter the information you share. I am thankful for you and for all that I learned by listening to 1A. Thank you.

    Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

    • Well said. The point of his show was to hear different sides of an issue. It’s too bad that some people were not willing to accept him for who he is.

  23. Joshua Johnson was masterful as the host of 1A and his shoes will be hard to fill. He was fair and his breadth knowledge was unmatched. I had the pleasure of meeting him and he was engaging and polite. He will be sorely missed.

  24. So many times, while listening to radio talk shows or watching TV cable news, I find myself questioning the host – “why don’t they ask about….?, why don’t they explain…?, why don’t they bring up…?, etc. but I NEVER question Joshua as he always expertly covers all the bases. His intelligence and expertise come through in his impeccable speaking skills and the topics are almost always very interesting to me (a Boomer). I’m sorry to see him leave 1A but will enjoy watching him on MSNBC.

  25. He was the rebound date plain and simple. I thought he was good, but every institution needs a buffer before filling it’s permanent shoes.

  26. He was a terrible host. He isn’t that bright and isn’t that knowledgeable about history, world affairs, politics, economics, etc. He talks like he hasn’t read anything, which I think is actually the case.

    • You must be thinking of another Joshua Johnson. That definitely is not the one I admire and appreciate.

      • At the risk of causing offense, I would say that NPR continues to lower the bar in terms of the education level it expects of its listener.

  27. Joshua Johnson is an amazing talent in journalism. He followed the “old school” of journalism which presented subject matter in an unbiased and truthful way, which allowed listeners to form their own “informed” decisions. This will not be tolerated at MSNBC, one of the most biases networks I’ve had the misfortune of watching. I will miss him, I will not waste my time watching MSNBC’s propaganda.

    • Respectfully, I could not disagree more. A great journalist doesn’t simply allow guests to speak and present a point of view: he or she elicits insights from the guests that otherwise would not come forth and ties those insights together in a way that makes the conversation greater than the sum of its parts. Doing so requires the host to have very strong command of the subject matter being discussed, as well as a deep reservoir of contextual knowledge to draw on. Johnson does not have these things. In addition, the cadence of the show was very poorly manged; as one example, Johnson would read several disjointed comments from Facebook about the topic being discussed, then return to his guests and make no connection between those comments and the subsequent direction of the conversation. This was one bit of tangible evidence that he did not have a strong understanding of the topic and therefore could not connect disparate aspects of it in a coherent way.

    • MSNBC is an excellent network with the most professional and knowledgeable journalists on news today. Everyone tries to say they are the voice of the left, but MSNBC is very centrist if you listen. Fox has pushed the bar so far to the right, that anything left of Fox gets branded leftist, unfortunately.

  28. I would like to see Ray Suarez take over the slot for Joshua. Ray used to host ‘The Connection’ on NPR way back in the late 90’s early 2000’s and he was exceptional in that roll. He is everything you want a talk show host to be. I really hated it when The Connection was cancelled. I admit I have grown a bit tired of Joshua lately.

  29. I would have written directly to him but I I could not find an address for the show, only WAMU. So I tried some more to gather my impressions of the show, but really don’t like listening to it. He’s the first NPR host I’ve felt that way about, and it’s mostly because he talks so much. I want to hear from the guests. He’s on every day so even if he only talks a little each day, I hear plenty from him. But once he starts, he goes on for 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 sentences until we’re finally back the guest, who is only on once a year or less. It would be one thing if he were debunking falsehoods the guest spoke, but he was just filling in background, which could have been elicited from the guest.

    A smaller reason I didn’t like the show, and I can’t explain this, was his perfect diction. Each word crisply said. And I shouldn’t have to say this, but I probably do. I felt this way from the 2nd or 3rd day and it was more than a week later I learned he was black. That didn’t make my feeling go away and didn’t make it worse.

    None of the other complaints expressed by other posters here did I notice and I don’t agree with them –for example, I thought he was knowledgeable — though I certainly didn’t listen every day, at first 2 days out of 5, later less than 1 day, since I also get WYPR and WCSP on the radio. Even with these 3 stations, there is so much terrible, terrible news since Stumpie showed up that sometimes it’s hard to find something to listen to.

    I still miss Derrick McGinty, who also went to NY and never came back. ;-( and I liked Diane Rehm, and the show that was on 10 or 15 years ago at 2PM, and pretty much every other show except the ones targeting 20-somethings that appeared in the last year or two, at 10PM on Friday or Saturday,

    If you’re reading the comments, I hate to be mean but OTOH, if a lot of people feel this way, it’s good for your career to know it.

  30. Joshua Johnson is a breath of fresh air. His delivery is so crisp, I wonder where he went to high school, college, and journalism school, or if it was at home that he learned to speak so confidently and clearly. I wish my children were as well-spoken as he. Yes, sometimes he does go on, but, on balance, he does a good interview, and if he hears a guest spouting nonsense, he will call him, her or them on it. I was disappointed to hear that he is leaving. This Older Boomer will miss him.! (As I miss Diane Rehm.)

  31. Thank You Joshua Johnson. You and 1A are an important part of my day. I have no complaints and only praise for the work you’ve done. I can’t imagine a more intelligent, insightful host. I wish you much happiness in your new endeavor.