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One on One with NPR’s Michel Martin

What inspired you to pursue a career in journalism? 

I got hooked on journalism in college, writing for the college newspaper “The Harvard Crimson.” I was on a work-study scholarship though so I only had so much time to spend on an extracurricular activity that didn’t pay and didn’t count toward my degree. Clearly it was a labor of love..

Who was the most interesting guest you’ve had appear at NPR and why?  

I don’t think that way. I focus on whoever is in front of me at the moment, I think that person deserves my full attention and I try to give it. But I will say that some of the guests who intrigue me the most at the moment are the activist African American pastors who oppose gay rights. I am thinking of two in particular, both men. Both very well educated; thoughtful people, you can’t pigeon hole them as ignorant, backwoods bigots who don’t know any gay people. Every time I have interviewed them they’ve been thoughtful, cordial and respectful to our LGBT guests but they don’t see the connection to their own struggles as black men of faith. It’s just an important reminder that just because two people have the same information it does not mean they are going to come to the same conclusions.

What do you believe is one of the biggest issues our nation faces today that is under-reported in main stream media? 

Oddly, it’s the media itself. I think people think of media people as very self centered and I can understand why, yet the disturbing trends in the news—the consolidation, the erosion of consistent local news coverage, the trend toward opinion over fact reporting are actually hard to report on and get your hands around. You don’t know what you don’t know. When I started out at the newspaper I read most often there were beat reporters in every jurisdiction covering schools, law enforcement ,  transportation, local government. You were expected to know what was going on almost before your sources did. Who has that now? Also, so much is going on around the world—thank goodness NPR is still opening bureaus around the world. Glitzy projects are great and win prizes and all that but I still want to know why the city is digging up my street.

Congratulations on being this years recipient of the Hank Meyer Headliner Award. What does it mean to you to be the recipient of this prestigious Award? 

How much time do you have? Ok seriously..broadcasting is a team sport but it can feel surprisingly lonely. You send your work out into the air and you sometimes wonder if anybody is listening. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that people are listening and even better seem to understand what we’re trying to do with Tell Me More, which is to talk about how the world is a changing in a way people can understand.

What’s life like at home? Tell us about your family.

I am married to William “Billy” Martin who is an attorney of some accomplishment (she said modestly) you might know him from some of the clients he’s represented (and the stories he has kept me from covering because of conflicts of interest! (Michael Vick, Jayson Williams, Bill Campbell, Wesley Snipes, Monica Lewinsky’s mom….) We have twins at home and our blended family includes two amazing young women and their families. We are very blessed.

Where does Michel Martin go from here? 

Just trying to keep calm and carry on.


Photo courtesy of NPR

Click here to view post in the May/June 2014 issue.



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