NPR began for Tamara Keith with teenage letters from California

tamara-keith-npr.jpgNPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith filled in as host of Weekend Edition Saturday while the regular host, Scott Simon, is on vacation. For the occasion Keith did a personal story about the letters she wrote to NPR personalities — including Simon — when she was a 15-year-old in the San Joaquin Valley town of Hanford and listened to public radio on her parents' car radio. "Living in a town where 80% of the population have four legs and udders and the high school a nationally recognized milk tasting team, I need some outside help," she wrote to Simon. He answered. So did Cokie Roberts and Liane Hansen.

That little letter-writing campaign — and the people who responded — changed my life. And I don't mean that in some abstract way.

First I heard from Cokie. Whatever you do, don't major in communications, she said. And then Scott Simon invited my family to his home, where we sat on a peach-colored leather couch and my little brother played with Scott's ancient cat. His advice: Consider majoring in philosophy. I did. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but it taught me how to break apart arguments, how to ask the right questions.

Liane Hansen responded, too, and invited me to write essays about being a teenager that aired on Weekend Edition Sunday. Ultimately, that led to my first real radio job.

And it all started with a letter. A letter with mediocre spelling and questionable punctuation. Sitting at Scott's desk, getting ready for this week's show, almost 19 years to the day after I sat on his couch getting advice about college, I'm still so grateful that my teen idols at NPR took the time to respond.

Sometimes all it takes to make a difference is to write back.

Keith joined NPR in 2009 as a business reporter, after reporting stunts at KQED's "The California Report" and in KPCC's late state capital bureau in Sacramento. Her website includes free tips on how to make good radio.

More by Kevin Roderick:
NPR began for Tamara Keith with teenage letters from California
Puig and Dee Gordon make the All-Star team
Great news for the 4th of July: Al Martinez is back
Blue whale capsizes boat off San Diego (video)
Louis Zamperini dies at age 97
Recent Media people stories on LA Observed:
NPR began for Tamara Keith with teenage letters from California
Mark Katches named editor of The Oregonian
Jeffrey Ressner, LA journalist was 56
Press Club awards honor Mark Lacter tonight
How Aaron Kushner didn't save the Register

New at LA Observed
Follow us on Twitter

On the Media Page
Go to Media
On the Politics Page
Go to Politics

LA Biz Observed
Arts and culture

Sign up for daily email from LA Observed

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

LA Observed on Twitter and Facebook