As co-host of National Public Radio’s primetime evening show, All Things Considered, Ari Shapiro, 44, is one of the network’s best-known correspondents.

When asked what he thinks makes a great story, he said, “When I’m looking for a great story, I want a connecting point, I want high stakes, and I want a reason why somebody cares.”

Ari Shapiro, co-host of All Things Considered on National Public Radio.

CBS News

He helps shape coverage, interviews newsmakers and continues to report from the field. However, when he was a student at Yale University, he was turned down for an NPR internship. “And I will remind any NPR executive at any time that I was turned down for an internship at NPR!” he laughed.

But Nina Totenberg, NPR’s legendary legal correspondent, picks the interns herself, and she gave Shapiro a chance. She told Braver, “He was always ready. Did I have someone who could walk into the courthouse with a tape recorder and stand there in the pouring rain? Ari Shapiro was there.”

After his internship, Shapiro was able to land a few behind-the-scenes gigs at NPR. But in his free time he started writing his stories. “I decided to look at NPR as a free graduate school,” he said. “And so I borrowed some equipment and asked people if they would teach me how to use it.”

Braver asked, “What did you like about the reporting part?”

– I’m curious, you know?

Harper alone

Noosey, and as he recounts in his new memoir, “The best strangers in the world”, was used to feeling like a bit of an outsider, growing up as one of the few Jews in Fargo, North Dakota, where his parents were professors.

“My older brother and I would go from classroom to classroom with a menorah and a dreidel and talk to kids who are descended from Scandinavian immigrants about what Hanukkah is and what Judaism is,” Shapiro said.

When he was eight years old, his family moved to Portland, Oregon, where he gradually came to another realization: he found out he was gay, and from the beginning he felt quite comfortable. “I remember thinking very clearly, the sooner I get this over with, the sooner it won’t be a problem,” Shapiro said. “So I told my parents and they took it really well. They said they still loved me. It was a process, but it was a process we went through together.”

And he says feeling like an outsider has sharpened his reporting, whether covering the Justice Department or the White House or spending two years as a foreign correspondent in London.

Shapiro is married to Mike Gottlieb, his college sweetheart. But he said that when they first decided to get married, he thought he should ask NPR for permission. “Yes, 2004 wasn’t that long ago,” he said, “but in politics, in gay marriage, in gay rights, that’s a lifetime.”

Braver asked, “Do you think what changed was that you married another man and could go out and say, ‘This is my husband’?”

“I think the country has kind of caught up to where we were,” he replied. “But I also became more comfortable in my own skin. And that’s part of what this book is about, is that I understand that the things that make us different from each other make us more interesting, more valuable, richer, and that those are the things we should celebrate , and not to be silent.”

That’s why Shapiro now spends his time off singing with the Portland band Pink Martini. Although he performed throughout high school and college, Shapiro left music behind. then, he did a story about the band. A few years later, in 2008, the leader of Pink Martini heard Shapiro sing at a party and invited him to record the song “But Now I’m Back” for the band’s album “Splendor in the Grass”:

Pink Martini – But Now I’m Back by
nnigani on

And, notes Shapiro, even though it’s sung to huge audiences around the world, “When you say, ‘Oh, you’re a serious journalist singing with a band,’ there’s a part of me that still cringes a little bit.” And I want to say to myself, “Ari, drop it! Don’t be offended, be proud! You’re singing at the Hollywood Bowl! You’re singing at Carnegie Hall!”

Ari Shapiro performing with Pink Martini.

CBS News

But Pink Martini isn’t Shapiro’s only side business. He also performs in Cabaret with Tony Award winner Alan Cummings, known for his work in theater, film and television. The two had known each other for some time when Cumming pitched the idea to Shapiro. “And I stopped and turned to him and said, ‘Alan, don’t joke about it, because I’m definitely going to get you!'”

Cummings recalls, “The next morning, I kind of call him and say, ‘I’m still thinking about it. I still want to be on the show with you!”

They call the act Och & Oy! [“Och” being a Scottish version of “Oy.”]

Alan Cumming and Ari Shapiro: Oh, Oh! | “Bosom Buddies””You’re the Best””All You Can Do”… by
Cabaret on

Braver asked Cummings, “What appeals to you about Ari as a person?”

“He’s so full of life,” he replied. “He’s just interested and passionate about things. And he’s a geek. He’s a big geek, you know.”

“He’s kind of a cool weirdo, right?”

“Oh yeah, he’s a cool geek! So I think whatever he does is really what he wants to do. And I think he’s kind of figuring it out right now.”

But now Ari Shapiro says he has only one goal for all the different aspects of his work: “Whether I’m singing in front of an audience of thousands or doing a radio broadcast to someone sitting alone on the porch, I want to give someone a reason keep listening.”

READ THE PASSAGE: Best Strangers in the World by Ari Shapiro

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Story prepared by Jay Kernis. Editor: George Pazderets.

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