NPR: 15 Interesting Facts About National Public Radio


NPR is one of the most popular sources of information in the United States. However, despite the fact that the media organization has spent a considerable amount of time in the spotlight and under the scrutiny of the public eye, there are still some things that many people don’t know. With that in mind, here we present our list of 15 things you probably didn’t know about NPR. Well, what are you waiting for? Check it out for yourself below!

Number Fifteen: From 90 to 900

In 1971, the media organization had just 90 member stations. As of 2016, there are over 900.

Number Fourteen: All Things Considered Started Out With a Bang

While many broadcasts experience more of a slow burn than an explosion in popularity, the very first episode of NPR’s All Things Considered was quite monumental. The first episode documented more than 20,000 people in Washington, D.C. protesting the Vietnam War. It was one of America’s largest antiwar protests of all time and the episode featured a 24-minute sound portrait of the protest.

Number Thirteen: NPR Brought Us the First Female to Anchor a National U.S. Network News Broadcast

Susan Stamberg was the host of All Things Considered in 1972, and she holds a special honor. In 1972, Stamberg was the very first woman to become an anchor for a national news broadcast in the United States.

Number Twelve: May the Force Be With NPR

In 1981, the organization worked together with KUSC to produce a radio dramatization of none other than Star Wars. Impressive!

Number Eleven: It Completed the First Nationwide Radio Satellite Distribution Network

The organization is responsible for a lot of firsts, and this one is no exception. In 1980, NPR was responsible for completing the very first nationwide radio satellite distribution network.

Number Ten: It Has a Special Connection to The Simpsons

It’s true! Many personalities associated with the organization have also been featured on the hit animated series. Some of these personalities include Terry Gross, Bob Boilen, Robert Siegel, and Carl Kasell.

Number Nine: Its Archive Is Bigger Than You Think

The organization’s archive, which dates back to 1971, contains more than 800,000 stories. That’s a lot of space!

Number Eight: It Was Ahead of the Game With the Panama Canal Treaty

The Panama Canal Treaty debate was a hot-button issue in 1978. NPR was the very first network to broadcast live coverage of the debate from the Senate Floor.

Stephen Voss / NPR
Stephen Voss / NPR

Number Seven: The Microphone in the Barrel Debacle

In an effort to thoroughly record the sound of Niagara Falls, All Things Considered sent a barrel with a microphone inside over the waterfall in 1973. However, the wind was too strong and ended up getting the barrel stuck at the top.

Number Six: Before Morning Edition, There Was First Things First

The network’s popular show called Morning Edition wasn’t always going to be called that. In fact, other potential names for the series included Morning Air, First Things First, and Starting Line.

Number Five: Nipper for NPR

Nipper is the name of the dog featured in a Francis Barraud painting called “His Master’s Voice.” The dog is the “unofficial” mascot for NPR, and in fact, the organization’s headquarters even have a large replica of Nipper inside!

Number Four: Its Headquarters Generate a Lot of Buzz

And we mean that quite literally. The organization’s headquarters not only have a large replica of Nipper, but they’re also home to two colonies of honeybees. The bees even have their own Twitter account!

Number Three: The Story Behind Tiny Desk Concerts

You might be familiar with the network’s series called Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform in an intimate setting at Bob Boilen’s desk. The name “Tiny Desk Concerts” stems from Boilen’s former band, Tiny Desk Unit.

Number Two: It Rescued a Chicken Crossing the Road

Seriously! Following the honeybee trend, the network made a Twitter account for the chicken they rescued as well.

Number One: Susan Stamberg’s Thanksgiving Tradition

Stamberg has shared the same exact recipe every Thanksgiving since 1972. That recipe is for Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Relish. Thanks for reading!

All research for this piece was performed by the NPR Research, Archives and Data Strategy Team. Research was also performed by NPR Historian Julie Rogers.