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NPR's new CEO takes the reins December 1, 2011. He'll field questions - and advice - from callers in the first hour of Talk of the Nation. (Sesame Workshop)

December 1st: What's on Today's Show

by Peter Granitz
Dec 1, 2011

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NPR's New CEO Takes Your Calls
Today, public television veteran Gary Knell takes the helm at NPR, becoming president and CEO after more than 20 years with the organization behind the children's television program Sesame Street. Knell assumes the post after a period of turmoil at NPR, beginning with the controversial firing of longtime news analyst Juan Williams and continuing through the subsequent dismissal of NPR's former CEO and two top managers, and the calls in Washington to eliminate federal funding for public radio. Host Neal Conan talks with Knell about how he plans to address the challenges facing NPR.


National Book Award Winner Nikky Finney
Nikky Finney has dreamed of being a poet since she was a teenager. She published her first of four books of poems in 1985 and has taught writing for years at the university level. Now, she's reached a pinnacle of success in the literary world: Her latest book, Head Off & Split last month received the National Book Award for poetry. Her award-winning collection of poems tells the stories of contemporary African-American life: from the Civil Rights Movement to Hurricane Katrina. Host Neal Conan speaks with Nikky Finney about her latest collection, the life of a poet and what it means to win the National Book Award.


Richard Branson, 'Screw Business As Usual'
Richard Branson built a global business empire with the philosophy "have fun and the money will come." As the founder of Virgin Group, he built a mail-order record company into a major record label and a chain of record stores, started an airline, created a space tourism company, and has been actively involved in humanitarian efforts. Now, Branson argues that it's time to rethink the way businesses function. You can make money, he says, by doing good. In a new book, he says that businesses can make a profit and also care about people, communities, and the planet at the same time. Neal Conan talks with Branson about his new book, Screw Business As Usual.


Don McLean on 'American Pie'
The legend of where Don McLean wrote and first performed his hit song "American Pie" still holds sway in Saratoga Springs, NY. But, it's not true. The singer last month told The Post-Star of Glens Falls, NY, that he'd written the song in Cold Spring, NY, and Philadelphia, not at the Tin & Lint bar in Saratoga Springs. And he first performed it — not at the famous Caffe Lena — but at Temple University, while opening for Laura Nyro. Don McClean joins host Neal Conan to talk about where the legend developed and what the song means to generations of listeners.

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