Former NPR host Neal Conan, who worked at the network for decades and became the longtime voice of the popular show “Talk of the Nation,” has died. He was 71.
His son, Connor Conan, said the radio journalist died at his Hawaii home Tuesday from glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, according to NPR.
Robert Siegel, the longtime co-host of NPR’s flagship evening news program “All Things Considered,” described his colleague in an on-air tribute Tuesday as “funny, smart and 100 percent radio, with an incurable curiosity and the silvery voice of an Irish tenor.”
Neal Conan began his broadcasting career at just 17 years old when he signed up to volunteer at his local public radio station. As an NPR correspondent, he covered pivotal moments ranging from Supreme Court nominations to the Olympic Games.
While reporting on the Gulf War in 1991 from southern Iraq, Conan was captured, along with 40 international journalists, by the Iraqi Republican Guard and was held hostage for nearly a week.
Conan went on to serve in a series of leadership roles at NPR, including as bureau chief in New York and London, foreign editor, news director and executive producer of “All Things Considered."
The journalist was best known for his more than decadelong stint as the host of “Talk of the Nation,” a call-in show that aired on 407 stations until NPR discontinued the program in 2013.
Siegel in his Tuesday tribute explained how Conan told his nephew, former NPR journalist JJ Sutherland, in an interview earlier this year how he would like to be remembered.
“I was lucky enough to be part of establishing what I think is now a really important news organization in this country, and for NPR News to have advanced so far from the organization that it was when I joined it and become so important,” Conan said.
“And there's never been a more important time for an independent news organization in this country than right now,” he added. “So, that, I think more than anything, is what I would like to be remembered for."
NPR reporters and other journalists poured out tributes to Conan on Twitter, with “Weekend Edition” host Scott Simon writing, “Sorry, just no words right now. But my heart filled with love and memories.”
Sorry, just no words right now. But my heart filled with love and memories. https://t.co/mrw2aXgMQB— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) August 11, 2021
Others called the longtime journalist a “giant” in the field. NPR’s Steve Inskeep said Conan lived an “extraordinary life.”
Our colleague @nealconan has died. He held almost every job at @NPR, covered wars, was unflappable in live coverage. Those he edited at various times included me. Once he left NPR to broadcast minor league baseball. In recent years he was farming in Hawaii! Extraordinary life. https://t.co/ZPD9ITs0h6— Steve Inskeep (@NPRinskeep) August 11, 2021
He was a giant. Neal Conan, Longtime Host Of NPR's 'Talk Of The Nation,' Dies At 71 : NPR https://t.co/0IUit7ltTe— Mara Liasson (@MaraLiasson) August 11, 2021