Radio active 

NPR's Peter Breslow blissfully feeds the beast

His official title for NPR's Weekend Edition might be "senior producer," but listen to Peter Breslow for a while — which you can do Thursday as part of Colorado College's Journalist in Residence Lecture Series — and you'll realize that the best way to describe him is simply "storyteller."

Whether he's discussing traveling to Afghanistan last year with Morning Edition host Renee Montagne to cover the presidential elections, or recapping his Peabody Award-winning work trekking Mount Everest with the Wyoming Centennial Expedition in 1988, the deeper he goes into the details, the faster his words come, the more animated he grows.

Take, for instance, the 64-year-old's assignment to cover Ebola in Sierra Leone last fall. He and correspondent Anders Kelto were the first team NPR sent during the crisis to the West African country for a two-week rotation. The pair decided to follow a case from the originating phone call at dispatch through to an individual being deposited at a clinic or holding facility.

"We were lucky on timing," explains Breslow, who's teaching at CC for three weeks. "A new dispatch center had just opened up and they actually had gotten computerized, and there were these young British women running it and there were phone calls and computers and — there were six ambulances in the entire country, right? But it wasn't that much of a problem because there were so few beds to put people in anyways, so they didn't need that many ambulances. Anyway, we literally — it was the first time in my life I actually was ambulance-chasing."

His eyes widen and he laughs, then turns serious. "This poor 14-year-old kid, without his parents, just sitting there and these guys in moon suits coming and nobody will touch him, and they're just like, 'Get in the back,' and they kick the door to close it, and he finally gets deposited in this tent, this big tent where there are, I don't know how many beds, maybe 20 — we couldn't get close enough really, they wouldn't let us, or didn't want to get very close."

Though his résumé includes trekking the South Pole, playing underwater hockey, being offered lodging with a warlord in Bamiyan, and covering military conflicts all across the world, Breslow's day-to-day actually isn't filled with as many adventures as he'd wish. In his 23rd year now with Weekend Edition, to which he came from NPR's All Things Considered, he spends a majority of his time figuring out how to feed the newsmagazine's "voracious appetite for ideas." He pitches and edits news and feature stories, and when the show goes on air, he line produces.

"That means that I'm in charge of making the trains run on time and if there's breaking news, that we cover it, and making sure the segments fit, making sure that everything is correct and that the chaos stays outside the studio so that the host doesn't experience that.

"You know, it's a constant puzzle, right? Of meshing the show together."


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