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Steve Inskeep celebrates 20th anniversary as host of 'Morning Edition'

Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep records a pre-tape at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., on January 24, 2024.
Allison Shelley
Allison Shelley
Morning Edition co-host Steve Inskeep records a pre-tape at NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., on January 24, 2024.

On May 3, 2004, Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne took the microphone for the first time as Morning Edition hosts. They had big shoes and a big voice to fill — seeing that they succeeded Bob Edwards who hosted the program for nearly 25 years.

Inskeep and Montagne shared the mic for just over 12 years. And in celebration of Inskeep's 20th anniversary in the Morning Edition host chair, Montagne returned to talk to her former co-host about some of his favorite Morning Edition stories.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Interview highlights

Notes from Steve's 2006 story On Patrol with Iraqi Police

Steve Inskeep: I went out on the streets of Baghdad with an American patrol. They were essentially attempting to police a chaotic landscape. And there was a moment when we approached a car, it had just stopped in the middle of the street. There were bullet holes through the windshield and the driver was dead. It was a chaotic landscape.

Renee Montagne: It's not unusual to hear an NPR host in a war zone. But I have to say, Morning Edition made a high priority of getting us on the road. And Steve, you especially were ready to pack up and get out there at the drop of a hat almost to talk to. And I'm thinking of one series, a domestic series during the 2008 presidential election, at a time when the possibility of a black president brought race front and center.

Notes from Steve's 2008 story York Voters Untangle Rhetoric On Race

Inskeep: Our colleague, All Things Considered Host Michele Norris, had this idea and brought me into what we called "The York Project." We simply sat down with more than a dozen voters in York, Pennsylvania. We all had a meal together, and then we talked for hours about their thoughts about a changing America. This was a really profound discussion as we tried to get at what was really on their minds.

Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne in-studio behind the mic, 2007.
Stephen Voss / Stephen Voss
Stephen Voss
Steve Inskeep and Renee Montagne in-studio behind the mic, 2007.

Notes from Steve's 2009 story In Iran, Young And Old Face Economic Struggle

Montagne: Steve, you have always had a knack for finding charming people. Just simply people we want to talk to, we want to listen to. On one of your trips to Iran, you spotted a young couple out shopping.

Inskeep: I love that interview, Renee. They were looking at wedding rings but they couldn't afford one. Now, they're talking to me in an unfree society where you can get in trouble for what you say, but they want to tell me what was on their mind. And at one point, I asked them, "is the economy good?" And the guy responded, "I have to tell you, it's great. Which was everything that I really needed to know."

Notes on the connective threads of Steve's reporting over the years

Montagne:. Is there a thread that runs through the stories both that we've just talked about heard and the thousands of other stories and interviews you have done over these 20 years?

Inskeep: Yeah. One of them is the value of talking to someone. We're in an environment where we are told what to think about everybody else in their motives. Somebody else is doing something terrible, and this is why they're trying to do this. And if you ask someone their story directly, who are you? Where are you from? Why are you doing that? You learn something again and again. And that's one of the things that's kept me going for 20 years.

I keep learning from the people that we interview and keep learning from the colleagues that I work with on a daily basis. Another thing that sticks with me, Renee, is how the news is never over and figuring out reality is never over. And it's felt valuable to do this job for 20 years because there's always another show. There's always another show tomorrow.

There's always going to be something today that we don't get complete, that we don't get our hands around, that sometimes we don't even get right. But we're going to come back tomorrow and try again. It's the nature of reality and the nature of life. We go on as long as we can.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Barry Gordemer is an award-winning producer, editor, and director for NPR's Morning Edition. He's helped produce and direct NPR coverage of two Persian Gulf wars, eight presidential elections, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and hurricanes Katrina and Harvey. He's also produced numerous profiles of actors, musicians, and writers.