How Four Women of Color See Their Roles as Hosts at NPR
This article was originally published by Jennifer Gerson for The 19th
Juana Summers is struck by “an incredible sense of responsibility.”
She took over one of the host chairs at “All Things Considered” in June 2022 after many years as a political correspondent for NPR. Now almost a year into her new role, she sees herself as a guide to making the news program — and NPR in general — a place where people can feel represented.
Part of that, Summers believes, starts with the audience knowing her.
“I am never setting at the door that I am a Black woman, I am a step-parent, I am a woman who grew up in the Midwest and lived in a low- and middle-income home growing up, and who went to private religious schools,” said Summers, 34. “All of those dynamics are things that inform how I do my journalism, and the degree in which I lean into any part of that varies from story to story.”
Summers is one of the four women of color — three of them Black — who have taken over hosting duties at flagship NPR programs over the past year. Leila Fadel moved to “Morning Edition” in January 2022, joined just over a year later by veteran NPR host Michel Martin. Ayesha Rascoe became the host of “Weekend Edition Sunday” in March 2022. Their roles extend beyond the voices delivering the headlines. Each are editorial leaders with immense influence over what and who is covered.
Three of these new host hires step into the seats left empty by women of color. Those departures, which happened in quick succession, came amid a wave of complaints from many at NPR regarding whose voices and perspectives held the most value there — and in the wake of a study that showed that employees who were women or people of color were more likely to be in lower-paid positions.