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'How do I stand my ground?': NPR's Ayesha Rascoe on the challenges and rewards of reporting

Earlier this month, NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday host Ayesha Rascoe spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Elley-Long Music Center in Colchester. In a wide-ranging conversation with Vermont Edition host Mikaela Lefrak, Rascoe discussed her time as a White House correspondent for NPR during three presidential administrations, the personal toll of reporting on difficult news, and her forthcoming book, HBCU Made: A Celebration of the Black College Experience.

Rascoe edited the book of essays and wrote an introduction about her time at Howard University, an HBCU in Washington D.C. She described her time as the editor-in-chief of Howard’s newspaper The Hilltop as formative for her career.

“As a journalist, as you know, you have to press and ask hard questions. And we’re not PR people. We’re not there to just write puff pieces,” she said of interviewing members of the college’s administration. “You’re trying to figure out, 'how do I stand my ground? How do I stand firm in what I believe?'”

After graduating, Rascoe went on to work at Reuters and then at NPR. She was named the host of Weekend Edition Sunday in 2022.

In that role, Rascoe presents a variety of segments, from the fan-favorite weekly puzzle with Will Shortz to in-depth interviews and coverage of the news of the day, which often involves tragedies like mass shootings and war.

“With any of these moments,” she said, “what I try to do is just to be an authentic witness to what is happening.” She also acknowledged how the work can affect her and her colleagues’ mental health. “It is a weight. It is heavy,” she said. “What I can do is just try to honor the weight of it, to carry the weight of it and just try to convey it the best way that I can.”

During the audience Q&A portion of the event, a number of audience members told Rascoe how much they love hearing her voice on weekends.

“I recognize that a lot of people do not expect authority to sound like me,” Rascoe said. “They don't expect to hear my voice reporting on Gaza. They don't expect to hear my voice reporting on the President or what have you. And so if my voice expands what people think of when they think of authority, then I am very happy to do that.”

Hear this special during Vermont Edition on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at noon and 7 p.m.

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