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Reach for a Radio

Scholastic News talks to NPR’s Melissa Block

By Aaron Broder | February 20 , 2008
Kid Reporter Aaron Broder with Melissa Block.  Photo courtesy of Aaron Broder.
Kid Reporter Aaron Broder with Melissa Block. Photo courtesy of Aaron Broder.

If you listen to public radio, then you've probably heard the voice of Melissa Block. She has worked for NPR for the past 22 years, first as an editorial assistant, and then, as the years progressed, various other posts. Finally, in 2003, she became a co-host of the news show All Things Considered.

Block recently visited Nashville, Tennessee, to speak to listeners of WPLN, the city's public radio station. Scholastic News spoke with her before her speech and asked about the highlights and hardships of her career, and the upcoming election. Here are the highlights.

Skeleton Key

A parent wouldn't pick a favorite child. Neither, says Melissa Block, can she pick a favorite story. "Sometimes I think that my favorite story is the one I haven't thought of yet," she said. "But I've been in a lot of interesting places at interesting times… A friend of mine said that reporters get 'a skeleton key to the world.'"

The Power of a Human Voice

Radio trumps TV and print in getting the best story, Block says.

"From what I've seen, television journalists are trying to get in and out really fast, with lots of gear that gets in the way," she explained. "NPR will stick around when everyone else is gone, and that's when the interesting stuff happens."

And while she calls print "a wonderful medium," she believes that radio gives journalists a better way to convey emotion and nuance.

"I think the sound of a human voice is an incredibly powerful thing," she said.

Difficult Stories

Although she couldn't pick a favorite story, Block had no trouble naming her most difficult story: the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

"Living in New York, trying to separate yourself from the emotion of what had happened…to focus on the story not from a personal level…that was a very, very hard time," she said. "The only way I could do that was to put on blinders and not let the effect of what had happened sink in for a few weeks."

Education in Elections

While discussing campaign issues with Block, Scholastic News pointed out that the presidential candidates have been neglecting education in their speeches and in debates. Block noticed it, too.

"I think candidates tend to give [education] a passing glance in terms of what they say," she said. "They all talk about wanting better education and better schools, but it's not the sort of thing where they come up with a plan for it."

You can find some of her past stories at NPR.


Scholastic Kid Reporters are on the campaign trail. Keep up with the latest election news in this special report .

About the Author

Aaron Broder is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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