NPR host Ayesha Rascoe shares the world’s stories


Perfect strangers feel like they know Ayesha Rascoe.

“I take that as a high compliment — that I've been their friend on the radio,” Rascoe said.

Rascoe has been a journalist since she edited her high school newspaper. One of her first professional positions was with the Reuters news agency, where she started as a news assistant and aspired to be an energy reporter and then a member of the White House press corps.

Following a decade of reporting for Reuters, she moved to National Public Radio (NPR) in 2018 and assumed the role of White House correspondent.

“I’d never really thought about broadcast,” she said. “Then, the Trump Administration happened, and I started being invited on TV and doing more radio. I got bitten by the bug. But even then, I don’t think I realized — until I got to NPR and started working here — that when people hear your voice, it does trigger something deeper. I think it’s more visceral for people, and they feel a kinship with you. They feel this connection, especially if you’re speaking in a warm, friendly way and sound like you’re just talking to them.”

Throughout her career, Rascoe has reported on everything from human interest stories of American life to global historic events. While at Reuters, she covered the catastrophic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. response to the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011. In 2016, she traveled to Poland to cover President Obama’s participation at a NATO summit, the final of his presidency.

In 2019, she traveled to Korea for NPR, to witness President Trump's meeting with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

Currently, Rascoe hosts “Weekend Edition Sunday,” and she co-hosts NPR’s “Up First” podcast with Scott Simon. The roles allow her to tell stories across genres. She interviews artists, authors, musicians, public officials, politicians and experts in a spectrum of subject matters.

Witnesses to civil rights

Last year, Rascoe began elevating the voices of Black Americans who lived through the Civil Rights era in the NPR Special Series, “The Civil Rights Generation.”

“We really need to talk to the people who were around for these dramatic changes — this defining fight for what the U.S. would become and for the rights that we now enjoy that are in some ways under attack again,” Rascoe said.

“There’s a generation of people who lived through this because it wasn’t that long ago, but they’re getting older,” she said.

When she pitched the story, she recounted memories her mother and uncle had shared with her. Her uncle was one of the first Black children to be bused to a white school, as the small towns in North Carolina were integrated. Her mother’s town was the setting of a civil rights demonstration, where she was first introduced to Benjamin Franklin Chavis, Jr.   

NPR provided the audio platform for their astute memories, in the four-part (and counting) series.

Rascoe also spoke with civil rights attorney and 2022 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Fred Gray, as well as Rev. Wheeler Parker Jr., Emmitt Till’s cousin and the last surviving witness to his kidnapping.

JoAnne Bland — who was an 11-year-old child when she marched on “Bloody Sunday” on March 7, 1965 — took Rascoe on a tour of Selma. One of their stops was a graveyard where there’s a Confederate monument and graves marked by Confederate flags today. The statue went up in 2000.

“That was the year the first Black mayor of Selma was elected. She said it was a sign, a message to say, ‘Okay, you elected a Black mayor, but we’re still running things here,’” Rascoe said.

This series inspired the most intense and emotional listener reactions, according to Rascoe. When they published the episode featuring Rev. Wheeler Park Jr., it became one of the most read and listened-to programs on the site.

“That series is absolutely something that I am so proud of. To have been a part of it means a lot,” she reflected.

A new book about HBCU experiences and impact

The NPR audience appreciates Rascoe’s perspective and talented storytelling, and they often tell her so. A November segment about “The Puzzlemaster” — The New York Times Crossword Editor Will Shortz — inspired a flood of comments.           

Between her hosting responsibilities and guest appearances on other NPR programs, like “Pop Culture Happy Hour,” Rascoe carved out time to compile and edit a collection of essays for her forthcoming book, “HBCU Made: A Celebration of the Black College Experience,” which will be released on Jan. 30. Oprah Winfrey, Roy Wood Jr., Stacey Abrams, Branford Marsalis, Rascoe and others contributed. She is a graduate of Howard University, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student-operated newspaper, The Hilltop.

“Obviously, I learned from my professors at Howard,” she recalled. “But journalism is something you learn by doing. I learned so much about what it means to tell a story and deal with pushback, whether from students, sororities or campus administrators who were upset with our reporting. I learned what it meant to stand firm in your reporting, and I also learned from missteps.”

“Yes, The Hilltop was my life, and it was an experience that completely shaped me as a journalist,” she said.

Many of Rascoe’s family members are also HBCU graduates.

“I know the importance of these schools and what they’ve meant for so many people,” she said.

On Sunday mornings, Rascoe leads listeners through an audio journey. There’s breaking news, arts and pop culture coverage, and deep dives into serious news from around the world. The week E&P spoke with her, the Weekend Edition Sunday team prepared to inform listeners about the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

“You get a taste of everything,” she said. “That’s the great thing about hosting a news magazine — you get to give people a taste of the world and culture. That’s what I feel like I’m doing every Sunday morning. I’m saying, ‘Come with me. I will take you on a tour of the world’s news — what you need to know, what’s fun to know. And hopefully, we’ll learn a little bit along the way.’"

Gretchen A. Peck is a contributing editor to Editor & Publisher. She’s reported for E&P since 2010 and welcomes comments at


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