Commentary
5:11 am
Sat April 13, 2013

In NPR's New Building, Everything Will Be Better ... Again

Originally published on Sat April 13, 2013 10:11 am

  • Susan Stamberg Hosts 'All Things Considered' On July 10, 1972
  • Barbara Hoctor And Bob Edwards On 'Morning Edition,' Dec. 31, 1979
  • Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr On 'Weekend Edition,' Feb. 19, 1994
  • Susan Stamberg's Voice In NPR's Elevators At 1111 North Capitol
  • 'All Things Considered' Story On The Move From M Street In 1994

Starting Saturday, Weekend Edition is broadcasting under the fourth roof that's sheltered National Public Radio. NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg has worked in all of the locations since NPR went on the air in 1971, and once again she shepherds us to our new home.

Our very first, temporary offices were at 1625 I Street, in Northwest Washington, D.C., just down the block from the Christian Science Church. No furniture at first, so we sat on the floor. We went down to the carry-out in the back of the garage for steak-and-cheese sandwiches smothered in onions. And we sounded — on our brand-new and only daily program — awful!

We were broadcasting over really low-fidelity telephone lines. But we knew in 1973, when some 70 of us packed up our typewriters and carbon paper and moved to the new building at 2025 M St., that everything would be better.

We went from landlines to satellite, which made us sound much better.

The years at 2025 M St. brought more and more toys — and new programs: Weekend Edition Sunday, Talk of the Nation, and before them, Morning Edition.

More staff, more member stations, more listeners. Eventually, after 21 years, we outgrew the space (by then there were 400 of us), and the M Street carpets were worn down from frantic races to the control room with reels of analog tape.

Digital recording came later, when — after packing more boxes, cigarette lighters, Peabody Awards — we moved to another new building, 635 Massachusetts Ave. — where everything got better.

Sitting in for Scott Simon on that moving day, Feb. 19, 1994, we broadcast from the studios of Voice of America, because studios in the new building weren't ready. Always ready, wherever there was a microphone, Daniel Schorr was reviewing the week's news.

And now, we've done it again. Move No. 4, from 635 Massachusetts Ave. to 1111 North Capitol St. This move — 800 people, audio flash cards, hard drives, the Web — involved logistics you would not believe, cartons, crates, memos, countdown calendars. Big deal! And the payoff:

It's Oz here, shiny and bright and full of sunlight and free coffee. Once we figure it all out — find the studios, our offices, the restrooms — everything will be better in the new building.

Although, that voice in the elevators ... I agreed to record it, if they'd also let me say, "Fifth Floor, Lingerie." But that department has been closed due to sequestration.

The rest of the place is open for business, however, as we step into a brand-new adventure.


The Last Time Around

On Feb. 18, 1994, Susan Stamberg gave her farewell to NPR's M Street building on All Things Considered. The burgeoning NPR crew was heading to 635 Massachusetts Ave., which NPR is now leaving.

In her reflection of NPR's time at the M Street location, Stamberg spoke with then-Morning Edition host Bob Edwards, All Things Considered hosts Melissa Block and Robert Siegel, then-newscaster Carl Kasell and current foreign editor Ted Clark.

She recounts how, before they even had time to unpack there in 1973, news broke that former President Lyndon Johnson had died.

"In these M Street years, the Cold War ended, and too many other wars, civil and uncivil, occupied our broadcasts," Stamberg said. "War in Cambodia, Lebanon, the Falklands, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East. In recent years, in addition to slaughters in Bosnia, Somalia, Sudan, we reported peace and democracy breaking out in many places. A new world order began."

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

You know, we're broadcasting this morning under the fourth - and surely, the finest - roof that has ever sheltered National Public Radio. Ignoring the adage "always be out of town when they move," NPR special correspondent Susan Stamberg has worked in all four locations since NPR went on the air, in 1971. She soon became a host of a show called ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, and made NPR and broadcast history.

The founder, Ms. Stamberg, has these moving observations.

SUSAN STAMBERG, BYLINE: Our very first, temporary offices were at 1625 I Street, in Northwest Washington, just down the block from the Christian Science Church. No furniture at first, so we sat on the floor; went down to the carry-out, in the back of the garage, for steak-and-cheese sandwiches smothered in onions. And we sounded, on our brand-new and only daily program, awful.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

STAMBERG: From National Public Radio in Washington, I'm Susan Stamberg with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

(THEME MUSIC)

STAMBERG: We were broadcasting over really low-fidelity telephone lines. But we knew in 1973 - when some 70 of us packed up our typewriters and carbon paper, and moved to the new building at 2025 M Street - that everything would be better.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

STAMBERG: Oh! We are playing with a new toy on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED tonight. It cost over $18 million. It has parts all around the country, even in outer space.

We had just gone from landlines to satellite, which made us sound much better. The years at 2025 M Street brought more and more toys - and new programs. This one, WEEKEND EDITION SUNDAY, TALK OF THE NATION, and before them...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: This is NPR's MORNING EDITION.

(THEME MUSIC)

STAMBERG: More staff, more member stations, more listeners. Eventually, after 21 years, we outgrew the space. By then there were 400 of us and the M Street carpets were worn down from frantic races to the control room with reels of analog tape. Digital recording came later when, after packing more boxes, cigarette lighters, Peabody Awards, we moved to another new building, 635 Massachusetts Avenue, where everything got better.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

(THEME MUSIC)

STAMBERG: This is WEEKEND EDITION, I'm Susan Stamberg.

Sitting in for Scott on that moving day, February 19, 1994, we broadcast from the studios of the Voice of America because studios in the new building weren't ready. Always ready, wherever there was a microphone - Daniel Schorr, reviewing the week's news.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

DANIEL SCHORR, BYLINE: Trade has become the only real international ideology that this administration has, now that the Cold War is over.

STAMBERG: And now, we've done it again; from 635 Mass. to 1111 North Capitol Street. This move - 800 people, audio flash cards, hard drives, the Web - involved logistics you would not believe: cartons, crates, memos, countdown calendars. Big deal. And the payoff? It's Oz here - shiny and bright, and full of sunlight and free coffee. Once we figure it all out - find the studios, our offices, the restrooms - everything will be better in the new building. Although that voice in the elevators...

(Recording) First floor, going up. Second floor, Technology. Going up. Fourth floor, Newsroom. Going down.

I agreed to record that if they would also let me say, "Fifth floor, Lingerie, but that department has been closed due to sequestration." The rest of the place is open for business, however, as we step into a brand-new adventure.

I'm Susan Stamberg, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: What, they closed the lingerie department? You're listening to WEEKEND EDITION, from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.