Tag Archives: WBEZ

in which I bid NPR a fond farewell

You all are familiar with the beloved children’s classic Goodnight Moon, I trust.

Today, I would like to submit to you a derivative manuscript based on that story.

I call it “Goodbye NPR.”

Goodbye NPR, by Mackenzi Lee 

In the great big news room, there was a telephone, and big headphones, and a picture of Carl Kasell, not jumping over the moon. And there were three NPR producers sitting on swivel chairs.

Goodbye room…..

Goodbye big headphones…..


Goodbye editing bluff the listener tape…..

Goodbye tea……


Goodbye creepily life-like portrait of Carl Kasell in my cubicle…..


Goodbye cheapest sodas within a five mile radius….

Goodbye conference calls with the Subway Fugitive….

Goodbye sandwich Mondays…..


Goodbye NPR producers…..

Goodbye every magazine I could ever want…..


Goodbye creepy stairway….

Goodbye WBEZ building…..

Goodbye Navy Pier……


Goodbye NPR.


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in which Carl Kasell gives me one final hug


Today was the first in a series of goodbyes that are going to be playing out across my last weeks in Chicago.

Which reminds me – goodbyes SUCK!

Tonight was the last live show I will have with “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me.” Next week, the final week of my internship, the show is going on the road to Portland, Maine, and I am staying in Chicago so that I can do normal, ordinary, non-nerdy things1 in the last weekend before I leave Chicago.

So tonight I did a lot of lasts.

I took my last cab with Peter and Eva to the Chase Bank Auditorium. I ate my last delicious catered meal in the greenroom with the panelists2. I had my last diet coke and cupcake in the control room while waiting for the show to start. I spent my last “Who’s Carl This Time?” giggling while Mike and Ian made fun of everyone on stage3.

Last time hearing Peter make an Angry Birds joke when his iPad didn’t work.

Last time hearing “This. Is NPR.”

Last time sneaking out the back during the Q&A.

Last time leaving the Chase Bank auditorium through the terrifying revolving doors.

And yeah, I loved all those things, and I will miss all of those things. But there was one goodbye tonight that, above all, made me want to shrivel up and melt into a puddle of tears.

Tonight, I said goodbye to Carl.

Carl Kasell, NPR legend, is easily one of the kindest and sweetest men I have ever met. He is everything you would hope he would be after listening to his stalwart, resonate tones on the radio for years. He has an air of perpetual sophisticationbut never fails to see the humor in every situation. From the first time I met him, when I was lost and alone and he greeted me with a kiss on the cheek like we were old friends, Carl has never been anything but kind to me. Through these ten weeks of script read thrus and post-show drinks and half-hour voice mail message recordings,  Carl and I bonded.


Today, Carl and I had our last studio session together. I donned the big headphones and Carl positioned himself smartly in front of the microphone. One. Last. Time.

Tonight after the show, we said a very tender goodbye that included a quick succession of big hugs, an invitation to come back and see him anytime, and a kiss from Carl.

Then, we took a picture.

Remember how the first time I met Carl, I shyly asked him for a picture together? It looked like this:


I’m not photogenic on the best of days, and this picture is that day in Bethesda captured in a frame. Kind of awkward, and my expression clearly conveys my thoughts, which went something like this: “I am a little girl in a big city with a bunch of people I don’t know trying to do a job I am totally not qualified to do and I am totally shell shocked and in three different time zones but this is oh my gosh this is Carl Kasell I AM TOUCHING CARL KASELL AND TRYING TO NOT LOOK AS FREAKING EXCITED ABOUT THAT AS I AM!!!”

Awkward, I think is the word.

Tonight, our picture together looked like this:


And that is the best part about my summer in a frame.

Carl – thank you. From the bottom of my heart. Thank you for living up to all my expectations of your awesome.

Until we meet again.

  1. In other words, I’m going to a Harry Potter convention.
  2. I also met Paula Pell, the second half of Scott Adsit on 30 Rock. It has been a very Hornberger summer for me.
  3. We’re equal opportunity mockers.
  4. And trust me, it’s hard to maintain this level of dignity while doing impressions of Kristen Stewart in limerick form.
  5. Still disoriented every time.
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in which I discuss the finer points of interning

Before we being, let me start with a disclaimer: this post is in no way intended to come off as ungrateful or entitled, and I apologize if that tone comes through. I realize that I am in an incredibly fortuitous situation, and, to quote Charlotte Bronte, “I hold myself supremely blessed – blessed beyond all language can express.”

But let’s be serious. Internships are hard.

Not hard because the work is necessarily challenging. I wouldn’t call reading news stories and watching YouTube all day particularly hard work. In fact, I’d call it down right enjoyable. And the whole idea of an internship is wonderful. It is a chance to try out a career the way you’d try on jeans at the mall.

But I say it again: internships are hard.

Working for NPR is the second internship I have had; I previously interned for Utah State University Press. Both experiences have been invaluable. I have learned a lot, met some infinitely lovely people, and overall been incredibly pleased with my experience, and yet at each office, I have found myself in the same awkward position of feeling placed in the corporate friendzone.

Internships are hard because you have an expiration date. And, just like it is hard to get invested in a relationship when you know something is inevitably going to split you up, it is really hard to settle into a job where you know you are going to be leaving in three months. And it’s not just the fact that you will be leaving that is off putting. It is also the fact that you are part of an infinite cycle of interns.

In any office, interns are a rotating cast. I can only assume that everyone knows not to get attached to the interns, because, much like my favorite British nanny, they’ll be gone before the winds change. As much as I appreciate the care and attention that is given to me each time I meet a panelist or a producer, or someone at WBEZ, each time, there is a nagging in the back of my head, reminding me that they roll out the welcome wagon for everyone. Every three months, they prepare to go through the shaking of the hands, the changing of the emails, the new face at the corner desk. They tell themselves, all I’ve got to do is remember this girl’s name for three months. Then we can move on to the next one.

And it’s not that I think I deserve any sort of praise or adoration above what former interns have received. But I certainly would like to think myself something worth remembering. It is hard knowing that you are destined to be forgotten.

On occasion, stories from the tenures of former “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” interns get tossed around the office. They are generally nondescript and unenlightening, things such as “Remember that one intern we had who always fell asleep?” or “Remember that one intern we had who was neurotic about keeping things clean?” Which left me with generally no clues as to how I was expected to behave. Was I talking more than other interns did? Sending more emails? Not sending enough? I hoped for some sort of guidance from above, preferably in the form of a story about how I was better than everyone else who had come before me.

Then, a few weeks ago, my predecessor sent thank you notes to everyone in the office. They were well received. Very well received. Everyone took a moment of “Aww”ing to fondly look back on her, share their favorite memories of her, and comment on her wisdom, and what a great job she had done, and the smart life choices she had made since her departure. They all seemed very invested in not just what she was doing, but what she had done.

And I couldn’t help but feel a little overshadowed1.

I wonder what they will say about me after I’m gone. I don’t think I have been very memorable. Perhaps memorable only in my follies.

Like most humans, I have become obsessed with the legacy I will leave behind me, and my current preoccupation is the legacy I will leave at NPR. In a few months, when there is a new intern at my desk, will the producers tell them things about me? Will they say, “Remember that one intern who was sarcastic to the point that we thought she was an idiot2?” or “Remember that one intern who always filled Peter’s water cup really full?” or “Remember that intern who spontaneously dyed her hair pink?”

But most likely it’s going to be, “Who was that one intern we had – the one who almost never said anything?3

Being an intern is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle that is already complete, and still trying to cram yourself in, even though you know you might not fit properly.

It is about walking a fine line between being recognized for the good work you do while simultaneously not overstepping your welcome. It is doing work that you often don’t feel qualified or necessarily equipped to do, and trying to pretend you are much less panicked about this than you actually are. It is knowing that there have been other interns before you, and there will be others after you, and many of them will be infinitely better at this than you are. It is trying to get invested in a job that you know you are about to leave, and knowing that in a few months, they might not even remember your name, but doing your best anyways.

But mostly, interning is about awesome. Every day, it really just gets more awesome. I get to surround myself with people who are cleverer and funnier and wiser than I am, and work with them on things that really matter, things that are heard by millions of people. I learn things every day about the creative process, and collaboration, and working under deadlines. I am so grateful for the people I work with, and the chance I’ve had with NPR4.

  1. If interns were colors, I would be beige and she would be flaming red.
  2. I am often so dedicated to my sarcasm that I come off as being stupid. Leaving me a legacy of, “Remember that one intern we had who owned a shirt that said ‘to be or not to be’ but didn’t know Hamlet was from Denmark?” Because that happened.
  3. Because I’m not a naturally chatty person, particularly around people who I think are awesomer than me. I generally stay quiet, because I now that when I open my mouth, something stupid will probably come out. I have no idea how my chattiness, or lack there of, compares to other interns, but I sometimes feel myself to be rather bland and quiet.
  4. Hopefully ending on a positive note didn’t make me sound too grumpy or spoiled. Because seriously, I love NPR. I love “Wait, Wait,” and I loved University Press. I just find myself in a point in my life where I seek permanence. I am tired of drifting. I want to find something stable that I can hold on to – job, apartment, friends – something that does not come with a sell-by date. And I think that feeling has subconsciously seeped into my work and reflected there.
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in which i give what sound like made-up directions, and take the wrong stairs.

If I was to describe to you my walk to work, you would probably think that I was giving you directions to the setting of a children’s fantasy novel, or laying out an absurd practical joke of which you were about to fall victim.

The location of the WBEZ office, which headquarters both NPR in Chicago (which I work for) and one of Chicago’s premier public radio stations, is in an incredibly bizarre location for such a professional establishment. It is located near the end of Navy Pier, also known as Chicago’s best tourist trap, where the thrills are cheap, and the food is not1.

If I were giving you directions to get to the WBEZ office, it would include real instructions such as “As you walk along the pier, go past the House of Mirrors, past the pirate ship, turn left at The Billy Goats Tavern, and if you hit the lighthouse, you’ve gone too far.”

Really. It’s the most unlikely place for a public radio station to be located2.

Once inside, the WBEZ building is not a particularly complex one. But I’ve never been good with directions. Today, I won a small victory when I managed to find the mail room all by myself after only being shown where it was twice, and discovered a new secret door out onto the roof terrace3.

So I was feeling rather confident when I decided to try a new set of stairs down from the third floor. I was also feeling rather good about these stairs because I took them yesterday when our staff went in mass together down to catch a cab to the Chase Bank Auditorium, where we do our weekly live shows.

But, as you may have guessed from the fact that I am writing about it, and I only write about things with a good story attached, the stairs I ended up on were not the same stairs as I took yesterday.

On these stairs, there was a sign on the door saying, “WARNING4  NO REENTRANCE.” Which I thought was odd, but progressed anyways. Only to find that these really weren’t stairs, it was instead a really short ramp thing, next to three stairs that clearly did not lead to another floor, and then another ominous white door with a little window, like something out of mental institution. Just as I realized I had made a grave error, I heard the no reentrance door shut behind me, and lock. Trapped.

Cautiously, unsure what I would find on the other side but mostly panicking that it was also locked, I ventured down the ramp and towards the white door. On the other side, I found what looked like the inside of a conference center, with tall ceilings and carpets that brought to mind the print of my bedroom curtains in England5. The whole room was very nice and spanking clean and had velvet ropes over the doors, clearly signifying that this was not somewhere I was supposed to be.

I wandered the halls for a while, clinging to exit signs when I saw them and praying not to run into security guards. The whole place was eerily still, and I felt myself subconsciously begin to tiptoe.

Eventually I found my way out. I still am not entirely sure where I ended up, other than I finally came out in the seating area of a very expensive restaurant6.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and fled back on to the main thoroughfare, vowing to never again to stray from the path that I knew well.

  1. Seriously, everything on the McDonald’s dollar menu costs two.
  2. It’s also just a few buildings down from a Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, and yesterday I watched a man vigorously try to get his son to eat there instead of McDonald’s. The son was seven, and totally not buying it.
  3. Which overlooks the lake and oh my lanta it is a view that a landlocked kid from Utah will never grow tired of.
  4. Always a bad way for a sign to start
  5. For those of you who didn’t follow my adventures in England, these curtains were barftastic.
  6. But is there really any other kind on the Pier?
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