Robert Krulwich, Co-Host of WNYC Studios’ Radiolab, to Retire in January 2020
Radiolab to release a special tribute episode in late January
(New York, NY — December 5, 2019) — After 15 years as the co-host of WNYC Studios’ Radiolab and an illustrious five-decade career in print, television, and radio journalism, Robert Krulwich has announced in a statement that he will retire from the show in January 2020. Radiolab will celebrate Krulwich with a special tribute episode in late January.
Krulwich joined forces with Radiolab creator Jad Abumrad after the two met in 2002. At the time, Krulwich was a correspondent at ABC, and Abumrad was hosting a three-hour Sunday night show on WNYC-AM 820 in New York called “Radio Lab.” Krulwich was renowned for his skill in making complicated topics like interest rates and genomics accessible, and Abumrad had a background in music composition and film scoring. They discovered that what they shared was a deep curiosity about big ideas such as time, space, colors, and the nature of good and evil—topics that went far beyond breaking news and traditional journalism.
Together, they forged an entirely new audio storytelling aesthetic that combined first-person storytelling, interviews with experts, and innovative, cinematic sound design—and in 2005, a new Radiolab was born. Ira Glass, himself a pioneer in the audio space, proclaimed that Radiolab was “utterly original!…reinventing radio…when I heard this I thought, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town’.” The Washington Post declared that the show was “Not your grandfather’s NPR!”
Radiolab started as a five-episode seasonal program that aired locally in New York on WNYC. Today it is a two-time Peabody Award-winning, nationally syndicated weekly show that airs on 589 public radio stations, and is consistently one of the top-downloaded podcasts globally.
“When we set up shop years ago, the idea was to create a space where hard, hard subjects that nobody would think of as entertainment could be—well, entertaining. And disturbing. And Absorbing. Against the odds, and against our expectations, the thing took off,” said Robert Krulwich in his statement. “…the next question we asked ourselves is what’s Radiolab to become, other than the two of us delighting each other? It has to go somewhere, no? And the answer came literally through the door as one wonderfully talented person after another came and joined us until we now have pretty much the strongest bench in the business…. From the beginning I’ve been the oldest, 25 years older than Jad who is now almost 20 years older than our youngest reporters. There comes a time—and I think it has come—when you get out of the way and let the future come flooding in. We have a flood of people who are ready to step up and that they came to us, chose us, that we got to teach them what we knew with Jad and Soren and Suzie guiding them—that, I’m now thinking, may be our grandest achievement—that what we started just might endure with different voices, different forms, but true to the idea that complexity can be delicious…”
“It’s hard to describe the mixture of feelings I have about Robert retiring,” said Jad Abumrad, Creator and Host of Radiolab. “Robert’s been my collaborator and co-host slash soul-mate slash play-mate slash studio-mate for 17 years. We’ve shared so many late-night edits, three hour tracking sessions, pre-live show jitters, and greasy diner meals that got a little too confessional and sometimes a little too argumentative. And in the process, we built a show together. Bobby K leaves us in a good place, with an incredible team that he helped train and mentor. I’m truly sad that I won’t get to see him everyday. But more than the sadness, I’m grateful beyond words for his friendship and guidance and blinding brilliance. And for the breakfasts he’ll be buying me every Tuesday.”
“It is difficult to overstate the influence Radiolab has had and continues to have on audio makers, on the sound of public radio, and on podcasting itself,” said Andrew Golis, Chief Content Officer, WNYC Studios. “We’re so proud that a master storyteller like Robert Krulwich called WNYC home for so many years, and we’re grateful for all he did to make Radiolab the vibrant, ambitious place for adventurous stories and journalism it is today. Robert’s legacy will undoubtedly live on.”
“For all of us at Radiolab, working with Robert Krulwich has been the privilege of a lifetime,” said Suzie Lechtenberg, Executive Producer. “Robert ignited something incredibly special. What began as a science show hosted by two friends has become a collective of some of the most talented storytellers; people who cover topics ranging from immigration to eel sex to hockey stars. Robert’s creativity and generosity are part of the DNA of the show, and for that, we are forever grateful.”
For 22 years, Robert Krulwich was a science, economics, general assignment and foreign correspondent at ABC and CBS News. Krulwich has been called “the most inventive network reporter in television” by TV Guide. His specialty is explaining complex subjects, science, technology, economics, in a style that is clear, compelling and entertaining. On television he has explored the structure of DNA using a banana; on radio he created an Italian opera, “Ratto Interesso,” to explain how the Federal Reserve regulates interest rates; and he also pioneered the use of new animation on ABC’s Nightline and World News Tonight.
Krulwich won Emmy awards for a cultural history of Barbie, the world-famous doll, and for a Frontline investigation of computers and privacy; a George Polk and an Emmy for a look at the Savings & Loan bailout; and the 2010 Essay Prize from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Krulwich also won the AAAS Science Journalism Award for a 2001 NOVA Special, Cracking the Code of Life, The Extraordinary Communicator Award from the National Cancer Institute, and an Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia Award.
Krulwich earned a BA in history from Oberlin College, and a law degree from Columbia University in 1974.
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