Carl Kasell: Newsman of a Thousand Voices

NOTE: This blog entry originally appeared in January of 2010

by Chad Campbell, senior producer

Way back in the summer of 1993, during my career-launching internship at NPR in Washington, DC, I had the great pleasure of meeting Carl Kasell for the first time. He was carrying a University of North Carolina coffee mug and since I was a current student at his alma mater, Carl and I bonded instantly over Tar Heel basketball. After graduating in Chapel Hill, I made my way back to NPR, eventually working with Bob at Morning Edition and seeing Carl every morning for five years. (He was still carrying a UNC coffee mug, but an updated version with the new logo.) But the time I spent there was just a fraction of the thirty years that Carl spent on NPR’s most-listened to program. That hard news portion of his career came to an end on December 30, 2009, when Carl Kasell delivered his final newscast. (Click here for NPR’s coverage of the event.)

But Carl is not retiring. Not by a long shot. The 75-year-old (we are re-running this interview today, 4/2/2015 on Carl’s 81st birthday) has taken a new job as “Public Radio Ambassador.” No one seems to quite know what that means yet, but Carl says he will no doubt be making lots of visits to NPR member stations, helping with local fundraising and attending public radio conferences.

He will also of course continue as the official judge and scorekeeper on NPR’s wildly popular quiz program Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me.  

The hosts and panelists of “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!,” from left: Carl Kasell, Roxanne Roberts, Peter Sagal, Adam Felber and P. J. O’Rourke. (photo by William Zbaren for The New York Times)

Click here for samples of the more than 2,000 outgoing answering machine messages Carl has recorded for some of the program’s winning contestants.

Bob’s visit with Carl reached way back to his childhood in Goldsboro, North Carolina, his early love of radio, his work at hometown station WGBR and Carl’s work with UNC classmate Charles Kuralt. They were in Chapel Hill for the beginning of WUNC and starred in a special radio drama to launch the public radio station. We include a bit in our interview, but by clicking on this link, you can hear the entire 1953 program and learn more about the history of WUNC in Chapel Hill and the role Carl Kasell and classmate Charles Kuralt played.