NPR's Ayesha Rascoe named new host of 'Weekend Edition Sunday'
NPR turned to a familiar and distinctive voice for its listeners - veteran White House correspondent Ayesha Rascoe - to become the new host of Weekend Edition Sunday.
In an interview, Rascoe expressed great eagerness to take on the new role beginning in late March, which will also entail hosting weekend installments of NPR's news podcast Up First along with Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon. The pace of the newsmagazine allows listeners to breathe a bit more deeply than its weekday counterparts, often offering longer segments and more cultural coverage.
"This job will allow me to show fully all sides of myself," Rascoe said. "I am someone who loves to ask tough questions and dig into policy and look at politics and world issues - all of that I've been able to do covering the White House. But I also like the arts and books and horror movies and thrillers and shows. And so I like being able to do that mix."
Rascoe says she is mindful of her experience as a Black woman rising on the shoulders of her mother and grandmothers. A daughter of Durham, N.C., she got her start in journalism as a writer for the teen section of her hometown newspaper, the Durham Herald-Sun. (Her first article was about a barrel racer - a rodeo event.) After graduating from Howard University, in Washington, D.C., Rascoe worked at Reuters, rising from being a news assistant to covering the Obama and Trump administrations for the global news service.
Rascoe joined NPR in 2018. And she found change in jobs represented a true shift, as her personality, and her literal voice, came to the forefront of her work.
"To NPR's credit, nobody at NPR ever came to me and said, 'You need to be a little more polished on the radio,'" Rascoe said in an interview. "I do have a voice that is distinct. I sound like a Black woman from the South. Very easily, someone could have come to me and said, 'Hey, I think you need to clean that up a bit.' But no one ever did.
"And people defended with me when some on the internet said I didn't sound professional. Every host, every reporter has defended me, and it gave me a confidence to stand on my own two," she said. "And look, I try to sound like myself. That's what [Weekend All Things Considered host] Michel Martin told me to do: to sound like the best version of myself."
NPR news executives praised Rascoe as they announced her appointment. "Ayesha brings multi-faceted experience to the host chair, having covered some of the pivotal moments in recent history from her vantage point as NPR's White House correspondent," said Sarah Gilbert, who oversees NPR's shows as its vice president for news programming.
"I am really looking forward to her infectious personality which is a combination of the experience she's had as a White House correspondent and throughout her career as a reporter," said Sarah Oliver, Weekend Edition's executive producer.
Early this month, Rascoe's independent streak shone through in a moment that made national headlines, as she pushed White House press secretary Jen Psaki for evidence for the claims that an ISIS leader detonated a suicide bomb that killed civilians during a U.S. military raid.
At Reuters, Rascoe also covered energy and environmental policy, including such crises as the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.
Among Rascoe's predecessors at the Sunday show are Rachel Martin, now a host of Morning Edition, Lulu Garcia-Narvarro, who departed for The New York Times, and Audie Cornish, who left NPR to become a host on CNN+, the new streaming service. The departure of the latter two fueled concern inside the network and in journalism about NPR's ability to cultivate and retain talented journalists of color. (Other recent major appointments have brought on board hosts, including A Martínez at Morning Edition, and Scott Tong at Here & Now, from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds.)
In the interview, Rascoe said increasing diversity is a challenge NPR must address - as must the network's peers throughout the country. Rascoe says she has been embraced by hosts who have left the network and those who remain and has felt support from the network and its listeners.
"I come from a long line of women who work hard," Rascoe says. "I carry their spirit, faith, dignity and worth. I want to carry that into the position that I am taking on."
Disclosure: This story was reported and written by NPR intern Anthony Tellez and media correspondent David Folkenflik, and edited by NPR media and tech editor Emily Kopp. Under NPR's protocol for reporting on itself, no corporate official or news executive reviewed this story before it was posted publicly.
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