New Host, Kelly McEvers, Will Bring Her Midwestern Roots To All Things Considered

October 28, 2015

Kelly McEvers

Stephen Voss/NPR

Kelly McEvers knew from the first story she wrote for the Daily Illini, while studying at the University of Illinois, that she wanted to be a journalist. More recently, you've heard her report as NPR's Beirut Bureau Chief and now as one of the new hosts of All Things Considered

"The very first story I was assigned in early 1993 - as soon as I did that story I knew I was going to be a journalist," said McEvers.

She quickly made her name in journalism starting as a metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune where she documented the lives of female gang members for the Sunday magazine. 

I want to understand. I want to bridge these two worlds that cannot understand each other. I want to be part of that conversation. Kelly McEvers

Before becoming host of All Things Considered, McEvers ran NPR's Beirut bureau, where she earned a George Foster Peabody award, an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia award, a Gracie award, and an Overseas Press Club mention for her 2012 coverage of the Syrian conflict. 

She says her desire to become a foreign correspondent grew out of 9/11. "One sixth of the population of the world is Muslim and all the sudden we were saying 'who are these people and why do they hate us?’ And I think everybody’s hunch was ‘Well, not all of them hate us, right, but some of them hate us and how did we get there.”

“From that point forward I knew that was a question that I wanted to explore,” said McEvers.

Kelly McEvers

Kelly McEvers

Photo Credit: NPR

She says her stint as a war reporter grew out of her quest to answer that question. “I always knew that all roads kind of lead to the Middle East, that that was the final destination,” said McEvers.

“And if you are a correspondent in the Middle East it’s pretty likely that you are going to end up seeing some conflict.” 

“One of those days it’s like ‘Should I go into this place where there’s shooting, yeah, I probably should.”

She chronicled her experience as a war correspondent in a riveting audio documentary for Transom, called Diary of a Bad Year: A War Correspondent’s Dilemma. As she worked on the documentary she was in the midst of covering the Arab Spring. Colleagues and friends were being injured, killed, and kidnapped.

Through the documentary McEvers examines many of the big questions about her work that she’d been asking herself, but didn’t yet have an answer to. Now home, McEvers says hosting All Things Considered is “totally different but yet strangely the same.”

“I thought “Wow, I’m going to be in a studio two weeks out of every month, day in and day out that could not be more different than being out in the field as a Middle East correspondent. But it’s funny, when you are sitting in the studio what are you doing all day? You’re talking to people. It’s the same thing, it’s the same set of principles we apply when we’re reporters,” said McEvers. 

My theory is that everybody wants to talk, and everybody has a story to tell. They just need to know that you are listening.  Kelly McEvers

McEvers says that as a Midwesterner, she hopes to increase the Midwestern stories and perspectives we hear on shows like All Things Considered.

“I would say we already have people on the ground [reporting Midwestern stories] but if I can in any way add to that I totally want to. … Any time anyone brings me a Midwest pitch it’s pretty likely I’m going say yes, so expect that.”

She didn’t just go to undergrad in Illinois, McEvers grew up in Lincoln, Illinois. In high school she was on the debate team as well as part of the marching band and pep band. (“Somewhere there’s some Lincoln Railers stuff at our house”) and says she is proud of her hometown. “It’s a really great town. I grew up in a really great town, man. I can’t knock it.”

Oh, and when she isn’t busy bringing us the latest on All Things Considered, she is also working on a podcast for NPR that we can expect early next year. 

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