Photo: Protesters who have just been arrested during the 1971 “May Day” demonstrations continue to shout their opposition to the war in Vietnam. (Wally McNamee/Corbis via Getty Images)

On May 3, 1971, NPR (National Public Radio) started holding up their microphone to America. Just outside their doors, on the streets of Washington, DC, one of the biggest antiwar protests in American history was taking place. NPR’s story is that of a ragtag network — born in the era of the Vietnam War and Watergate — one that came of age during the explosion of the 24/7 news cycle. In the 50 years that NPR has been around, the news and journalism have changed. The network has been shaped by its talented reporters, producers and hosts. NPR has also had to reckon with the ways it has not lived up to its mission of diversity and inclusion, a mission it continues to strive for today. But, as stories go, NPR’s is quite a memorable one. And so is Jeff Ananda Kamen’s story who was there at NPR from day one.

Ultimately I grew up, mostly got over myself and enjoyed an exciting career. I never took my ears off NPR and It has been a thrill to listen as it grew and gathered new generations of reporters smarter and braver than I ever was. Unexpectedly, I was invited to its gleaming new headquarters in Washington, DC before the pandemic. That day, when I arrived, I found an appropriately esteemed institution filled with brilliant diverse talent.

Fifty years ago, when I helped turn the lights on at NPR, FM radio was still new and we had a tiny audience. The dedicated people from that 1971 foundational group who stayed and those who joined them later, created something so wonderful that every week roughly 60 million Americans tune into the world of news and culture available to them on NPR. If you, too, love NPR you owe it to yourself to read Lisa Napoli’s rollicking new book, “Susan, Linda, Nina & Cokie: The Extraordinary Story of the Founding Mothers of NPR.”

And if you’d like to hear a taste of my original reporting you can find it here.  And even better, Terry Gross’ hugely fun interview with NPR creator BIll Siemering and the iconic, inspiring NPR broadcaster Susan Stamberg, please find that here.

About the Author:

Award-winning journalist Jeff Kamen is a longtime student of Swami Satchidananda and a resident of Satchidananda Ashram–Yogaville and the author of Warrior Pups: True Stories of America’s K9 Heroes and co-author with Robert Kupperman of Final Warning: Averting Disaster in the New Age of Terrorism. His New York Daily News Magazine cover story, “Facing the Terrorists,” provided readers with extraordinary access to the NYPD’s storied Bomb Squad. His news reporting and documentaries on national security, law enforcement, race relations, and politics have been featured on radio TV and in print for more than forty years. Kamen has reported for NPR, NBC News, ABC and CBS Radio, CBC and Mutual News. Jeff’s documentary, “Outside the Wire,” for the Air Force won the top prize for Pentagon-produced films in 2005. Watch Kamen’s 1973 documentary, “Yoga for the City,” featuring Sri Swami Satchidananda here.