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The Takeaway’s New Host Tanzina Vega Talks About Good Conversations

Matthew Septimus
Tanzina Vega is the new host of The Takeaway.

The Takeaway is a national talk show produced by WNYC in New York. It airs weekday afternoons at 3 on WUSF 89.7.

Tanzina Vega is the Takeaway’s new host.  Vega, who has worked for CNN Money and as a correspondent for The New York Times, spoke with WUSF’s Lisa Peakes about her new role.

LP: You’ve covered the topic of race and ethnicity for CNN Money and the New York Times. How do you see that informing your work with The Takeaway?

TV: Race is a fundamental part of our conversation in the United States and it’s something that I think is infused in everything that we do, and so it’s become increasingly part of the national conversation, for better or worse.

LP: Right, so along those lines, what do you think Americans are maybe longing to say but can’t quite?

TV: So what I’ve started to do, in certain instances, is try to respond to people. I had someone the other day say, he was very angry about something that I had tweeted, and he said ‘All newsrooms are liberal,' and he mentioned racism on the left and I said, ‘Well, you know, that’s an important conversation to have’ and I think there’s some surprise when the journalist or the media personality actually does respond.

Now that is a one-case scenario, but I think we're really looking to have conversations where people can be, number one, fact-based. We have to agree on certain facts, historical facts in this country and then from there, I think we can start to have conversations about things that make us uncomfortable, which is really what race does to a lot of people.

LP: For our part, how can WUSF listeners help you have those conversations that you’re wanting to have?

TV: One of the first things that we can do, for those of you who are on Twitter, is follow me @tanzinavega. Definitely follow me on Twitter. We will be doing things like Facebook Live.

Florida is actually a key state in so many ways, so we would love to hear from people on the ground. We’re going to be talking about elder care issues and, obviously, immigration and Latinos and just a ton of stuff that we’re interested in, so engagement is key.

LP: We’re here to talk about your professional life, but can you tell us a bit about who you are off the microphone?

TZ: Absolutely. I am a native New Yorker, and there are a very few of us, that means I was actually born in New York City, and raised in New York City. I lived abroad for a couple of years. I lived in Spain for a few years and travelled throughout Europe and Asia by myself when I was an intrepid young woman in my twenties.

LP: Have you been to Tampa?

TV: Actually, I have. There’s a great story that I have in Tampa. When I became a national correspondent at the Times, and I think this is one of these things that your listeners will be shocked by -- I, as a native New Yorker, did not know how to drive, until really just a couple of years ago.

And I had to learn how to drive because I was going to be a national correspondent, and one does not pick up yellow cabs. At that point Lyft and Uber weren’t really a thing, so I had to figure this out. And the first city I was sent to on assignment was Tampa.

LP: Oh, no!

TV: And the first time I ever drove a car by myself was in Tampa, and I recall at one point the GPS, because I had two of them on, because  I was practically freaking out and the GPS is telling me to make a U-turn and I just remember saying, ‘I don’t know how to do that right now.' So Tampa was very kind, I didn’t run anyone off the road. It was definitely an experience. I was in, is it Ybor City?

LP: Mm-hmm, sure.

TV: Tampa will always be in my heart as the city where I first drove a car.

LP: It’s a thrilling commute here in the Tampa Bay area. Tanzina, thank you.

TV: Thank you. This was great. I appreciate it.

Almost every day, I come before the microphone with the same enthusiasm as the Dani Rojas character in the “Ted Lasso” television series. I do 100 pushups, take some laps around the house, thank my supervisors and audience for giving me the opportunity to do what I love, bellow “Radio is liiiife” from the back steps, and bound back to my garret and get to work.
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