KET Legislative Coverage

Newscaster Jean Cochran Talks About Her NPR Days and More

by John Gregory | 06/12/14 8:42 AM

There's a certain kind of familiarity that develops when you wake up to the same voice year after year. Jean Cochran had the privilege of being one of those voices for three decades as a newscaster for NPR.

"Being there every morning, you become a part of people's lives, you're a part of their morning routine," Cochran says. "They count on me as a friend, and I love that."

Listeners will hear less of Cochran after she took a voluntary buyout from NPR last fall, although she’ll still occasionally anchor newscasts for the network on a fill-in basis. She visited Lexington recently for the Women’s Business and Leadership Conference, and spoke with Bill Goodman for KET’s One to One while she was in town.

No Higher Calling
A native of Cincinnati, Cochran spent her high school and college years in the Washington, D.C. area, around the same time the then-new National Public Radio was gaining a following among news junkies. After a broadcast journalism degree at American University, and five years in commercial radio news in New England, Cochran returned to the nation's capital with the intent of getting a job at the fledgling network.

"There was no higher calling to me than to work in news at NPR," Cochran declares.

She succeeded. Cochran landed part-time work with NPR as a newscaster and producer in May 1981, and by that fall she was a full-time employee. She got to see the network grow, and worked alongside such public radio legends as Susan Stamberg, Cokie Roberts, and Louisville native Bob Edwards.

Although she continued to do some producing work in her early years, Cochran's primary role became newscaster, doing five-minute updates each hour starting at 5:30 a.m. That meant getting up at 2 a.m. to be at work by 3, which left her with what she describes as a constant feeling of jet lag.

But Cochran says she loved the work of compiling, writing, and delivering the newscasts in Morning Edition, and telling listeners about the biggest events of the last three decades.

Changes in Journalism and in Life
Cochran also experienced vast technological changes during her career. When she started, news came in over wire-service machines that noisily spewed printed copy. Now, anchors and reporters use the Internet and social media tools to complement traditional news-gathering skills.

Even with all the changes in journalism and broadcasting, Cochran says she still encourages young people to enter the profession. Despite evolving technologies, she believes the fundamentals of the job don't change: solid reporting, concise writing, and a clear delivery.

Cochran says she enjoys keeping more normal hours in her retirement, but she does want to stay busy. Along with the fill-in newscasts for NPR, Cochran is hosting a series of podcasts about music and the civil rights movement for the Kennedy Center for the Arts. She also hopes to do documentary and voice-over work as well.

Watch the full One to One interview