There are certain voices in America that stitch into our lives like family recipes, old jokes, and wedding dresses: they become a part of our routine, a part of our consciousness, and we depend on them. Scott Simon is such a voice.
With a smooth Midwestern corn husk purr, Simon has delivered straightforward and compelling reporting for National Public Radio for more than three decades. From all 50 states and numerous countries, from eight wars and more than a few presidential campaigns, he has covered strife, siege, politics, and baseball. He brings the cool consideration and diligence of another era to every subject—one filled with caramel leather club chairs, smoke, and high heels—and his commentary is precise, opinionated, and smart enough to make a strong statement without caricature.
Simon joined NPR in 1977 as chief of its Chicago bureau, and he has been the anchor of Weekend Edition Saturday since 1986. He was quick to win awards for his coverage of the American Nazi Party rally in Chicago and for his political reporting on All Things Considered. He won an Emmy in 1982 for the public television documentary The Patterson Project, which examined the effects of President Reagan’s budget cuts on the lives of 12 New Jersey residents. He went on to win additional awards for his coverage of racism in a South Philadelphia neighborhood; the conditions at the Immigration and Naturalization Service’s detention center in Harlingen, Texas; the Ethiopian civil war; the murder of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador; the San Francisco earthquake; the war in Kosovo; and the attacks and aftermath of September 11, 2001.
Whether in print or on the air, Simon’s voice is sharp and thoughtful. He is known for commentary such as this, from a report on the Obama campaign: “Can someone raise questions about the experience of a candidate who has only been a U.S. Senator for four years and does not have a prodigious legislative record without being stained as a bigot? The results of this year’s primaries and today’s public opinion polls might suggest it is politically more injurious to insinuate that someone is a bigot than it is to make an issue of their race. Millions of Americans hope the country can go through this year’s historic campaign without playing the race card, but they’ll have to watch both sides of the table.” Or this on Senator Larry Craig: “I think I’ve finally realized what’s made me uncomfortable about the arrest of Senator Larry Craig. . .It’s not the crime for which Senator Craig has pleaded guilty, but the exaltation among so many that another hypocritical politician has been exposed. I guess by now I have seen enough of life that I’d prefer to see someone as a real, complicated human being rather than brand him or her a hypocrite.”
In addition to his coverage for NPR, Simon has been a frequent guest host of the CBS television program Nightwatch and CNBC’s TalkBack Live and has appeared as an essayist and commentator on NBC’s Weekend Today and NOW with Bill Moyers. He has hosted many public television programs and has written for The New York Times‘ book review and opinion sections, the Wall Street Journal’s opinion page, The Los Angeles Times, and Gourmet Magazine. He is also the author of four books: Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan, which was cited as one of the best books of 2000 by the Washington Post; Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball; and the novel Pretty Birds, about female teenaged snipers in Sarajevo. His most recent book, Windy City, was released this year. A comic novel about Chicago politics, it was described by one reviewer as “a big, sloppy valentine to the cultural jambalaya that is 21st-century Chicago.”
Simon lives with his wife, Caroline Richard, and their two daughters. And perhaps it goes without saying: he is a diehard fan of the Chicago Cubs.
Excerpt from Windy City (2008)
“Who would want to kill the mayor?” Chief Martinez asked aloud, after all politicians had been safely removed from the premises. The mayor’s office brimmed with brass-buttoned district commanders, blue-suited security cops, and investigators wearing gloomy gray suits. A growing parade of police technicians in blue windbreakers loudly stretched yellow crime scene tape across the length of the mayor’s office, unsnapped equipment cases, and hailed patrolmen to hold this, hold that, and use their investigative acumen to discover where to get coffee at this hour.
“I mean, who would want to kill the mayor?” Chief Martinez repeated. After a mute moment, at least twenty hands shot up around the room.
“Let me rephrase that,” the chief added in the general laughter. “I mean, which son of a bitch actually went ahead and did it?”
The mayor had been at once the most popular man in the city and the most despised. He was the most powerful and the most desperate for approval. No one else knew quite so many people. …
The police had compiled an inventory of 1,476 people described, in the parlance of the times, as persons of concern. They had personally, if usually indirectly, threatened to kill the mayor of Chicago, either in a letter, a phone call, or increasingly, by e-mail. Of this accumulated number, 617 had said that they wanted to “kick your fat ass,” “break your fucking neck,” or apply some other force that, while technically short of homicide, was nevertheless regarded as threatening to the mayor’s person.
Windy City (2008)
Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball (2007)
Pretty Birds (2006)
Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan (2001)