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Audie Cornish leaves 'All Things Considered'

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Over the past year, record numbers of Americans have decided to leave their jobs. Well, we have news now of one particular departure that really stings. I've been friends with Audie Cornish for almost 20 years, since long before we were NPR reporters or hosts of this program. Some of my favorite moments at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED have been in the studio with Audie when our microphones were off, laughing so hard we were gasping and crying, which is all well and good until your microphone opens and you have to read an introduction to a piece about genocide or inflation.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Well, as Audie herself said earlier this week when she announced that she was leaving, she's been in public radio since she could barely drive a car.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

That's right. By 2003, Audie was filing her first national story for NPR.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: From member station WBUR, Audie Cornish reports.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The state of Massachusetts has not...

CHANG: She joined NPR's National Desk in 2005, covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina...

CORNISH: Red Cross volunteers fanned out into the storm-damaged parish...

CHANG: ...And first sat in a host chair in 2007.

CORNISH: From NPR News, I'm Audie Cornish, in for Farai Chideya. For Thursday...

KELLY: She sounds like a baby. She joined this show in 2012, and as a host of ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, Audie has taken listeners inside a giant factory-turned-art-gallery...

CORNISH: Wow. We've entered your world, Kara Walker.

KARA WALKER: We have. So we should just...

KELLY: ...To a needle exchange program in Baltimore.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: So any opioid - heroin, oxycontin, Percocet, Dilaudid - come over, man.

KELLY: That was part of her award-winning series on the opioid crisis. And then there was that time she jumped into the cab of a monster truck called Grave Digger.

ROB SCHMIDT: Your left foot's going to go here. And this is the biggest step right here - is when you get in.

CORNISH: All right. Yeah, yeah, but it's OK - left foot.

SCHMIDT: Yeah.

CORNISH: Oh.

SCHMIDT: Big step.

CORNISH: It's really high.

SCHMIDT: Bad to the bone. That's for sure.

CORNISH: Yeah.

SCHMIDT: How about that?

CORNISH: Awesome.

CHANG: Awesome. But, you know, Audie may be at her very best one on one with a guest and two microphones. She has done some really big interviews, like this one with former first lady Michelle Obama.

MICHELLE OBAMA: ...Choose to be in that moment.

CORNISH: But aren't you still affected by this, right?

M OBAMA: Absolutely.

CORNISH: I mean, we're seeing, like...

M OBAMA: But that's...

CORNISH: You had a pipe bomb attempt at your home a few weeks ago. I mean, does this...

M OBAMA: But that's separate from what - how you're affected by it. You know, going high doesn't mean don't feel upset.

CHANG: She's talked with plenty of politicians and, of course, actors...

CORNISH: On set with actor Jake Gyllenhaal.

CHANG: ...Writers...

CORNISH: Dave Eggers, thank you so much for speaking with me.

CHANG: ...And at least one person, a movie director, who demanded a hug.

SPIKE JONZE: I need to hug you. That's all.

CORNISH: Oh, OK. Well, that hasn't happened (laughter).

JONZE: OK. I'll do it. Hold on a second.

CORNISH: Here we go - best way someone's ever gotten out of an interview with me.

CHANG: Audie has even spoken with this very obscure duo.

CORNISH: It's great to talk to a couple of podcasters from...

BARACK OBAMA: I know.

CORNISH: ...You know, Jersey and Hawaii.

B OBAMA: That's us.

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN: Woo (ph).

B OBAMA: We're hoping for a breakout.

CHANG: That's former President Barack Obama along with another familiar voice, Bruce Springsteen.

SPRINGSTEEN: You guys good? We're good?

B OBAMA: We're getting...

KELLY: Really, though, Audie can make any guest feel like a rock star.

CORNISH: All right. So what I'm going to have you do first is introduce yourself one by one.

EVAN ADDISON: I'm Evan Addison.

ERIN ADDISON: I am Erin Addison.

ANDREW AREVALO: My name is Andrew Arevalo.

EVAN ADDISON: We're, like, just looking for a hobby. And Erin was like, hey; you know, we could do podcasting. It would be fun.

KELLY: Now, she will push back - push back hard - when an interview calls for it.

JIM JUSTICE: Title 9 and...

CORNISH: Given this experience you're talking about, have you had a single example of a transgender child trying to gain unfair competitive advantage?

JUSTICE: No, I have not.

CORNISH: Then why sign such a bill?

JUSTICE: Because evidently, it is out there.

KELLY: She's equally comfortable holding space for sensitive conversations.

FLEA: But I know that he loved me. And, you know, people love how they know how, you know?

KELLY: Audie has at times turned personal, like when she wrote about her connection to the Boston busing program.

CORNISH: I know a little bit about these kinds of programs because I was in one as a kid.

KELLY: And she has a talent for recognizing people who haven't been seen, whose points of view haven't been shared.

CORNISH: Now, Samira Enni's younger sister has been leaning in a doorway to the room, listening in. And I can see she wants to jump in.

ANISA ENNI: Today Laicite is really...

CHANG: In 2018 Audie began hosting a series of live, long-form interviews with comedians and creators like jazz musician Gregory Porter.

GREGORY PORTER: Can I get a amen?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Amen.

PORTER: Because ultimately, I'm a child of a preacher. (Singing) Take me to the...

CHANG: Those conversations drove home what an incredibly sharp listener Audie is.

CORNISH: It's a lot of pressure, though...

NICOLE BYER: What do you mean?

CORNISH: ...To, like, hold it all to yourself.

BYER: Oh, I go to so much therapy.

CORNISH: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

BYER: So much therapy.

CORNISH: That's the part I wanted to get out here (laughter).

BYER: So much therapy.

SHAPIRO: Do you hear that - Audie's laugh? The news being what it is, we don't always have a chance to laugh on the air. And that's kind of a shame because Audie has an amazing laugh.

CORNISH: (Laughter).

SHAPIRO: Before we were all working from home in the pandemic, I always looked forward to the days when Audie and I got to hang out in the studio together during the show.

I can pull up anything because I've got a computer.

CORNISH: Oh, my God, a computer. How does it work?

SHAPIRO: She's even fun in the studio when she doesn't have a co-host.

CORNISH: It's Friday, people. It's a solo day. You're here, chilling with Audie Cornish on ATC (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Audie loves to lose the host gravitas and drop in on other programs, too, like Pop Culture Happy Hour and It's Been A Minute, where she can riff...

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Exactly.

CORNISH: I always used to say the Senate is like an old folks high school. You know, there's only...

SHAPIRO: ...And rip on others.

CHANG: Yeah, rip on people like me.

When I first started learning how to drink alcohol, I went from wine coolers to wine. And so, like...

CORNISH: Sounds about right. How old are you?

(LAUGHTER)

CHANG: Forty-one.

CORNISH: That's very late in Gen X, millennial-adjacent.

SHAPIRO: And, of course, she was the driving force behind the Consider This podcast, where one idea could be explored in depth each day.

CORNISH: Consider This - a show about male power is also a show about the people kept down by that power.

KELLY: Audie, I want to speak straight to you and tell you that your biggest impact may be on the staff here, on the colleagues and friends who have worked with you on stories. We have learned from you in pitch meetings and edits and sitting in your office. So from your producers and editors past and present, Audie, you are, in a word...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Insightful.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Audie is brilliant.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Brilliant.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Brilliant.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: Tenacious.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Persistent.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #8: A mentor.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #9: Even better friend.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #10: Gorgeous voice.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #11: Audie's always ready for whatever comes her way.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #12: She's a font of ideas.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #13: Fearless.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #14: Relentless.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #15: Inspiration.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #16: Funny.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #17: Discerning.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #18: Inquisitive.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #19: Curious.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #20: Unflinching.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #21: The realest.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #22: Quick-witted.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #23: A conqueror.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #24: You're the future.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #25: Whetstone - that might be weird, but I feel like she sharpens the people and the ideas around her.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #26: Thank you.

CHANG: For nearly two decades, Audie has signed off with NPR News.

CORNISH: For NPR News, I'm Audie Cornish in Boston.

Audie Cornish, NPR News, New Orleans.

NPR West in Culver City, Calif.

Audie Cornish in Washington.

I'm Audie Cornish. This is...

Enterprise, Ala.

NPR News, Nashville.

...To Consider This from NPR.

Columbia, S.C.

I'm Audie Cornish.

CHANG: So one more time, Audie, take us home.

CORNISH: Thank you so much to the people who make NPR and who listen to NPR - yes, you. It's been my honor to say this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.