A Conversation with 'The Takeaway' Host Tanzina Vega

Mar 12, 2019

Last March WNYC named former New York Times journalist and CNN reporter Tanzina Vega as the new host of "The Takeaway."

She’s coming to Kent State University this week to receive the McGruder Award for diversity in journalism.

After nearly a year in the host chair -  how’s it going?

This is one of the most amazing jobs I’ve ever had. From a personal standpoint, from a news standpoint -  it’s been exciting, non-stop and important.  That’s one of the things I’ve realized more so than ever - our role as journalists in having this national platform to get stories out to our audience is critical. So I feel deeply responsible for getting it right and that we’re communicating well with our audience.

How would you describe the show? What’s it about?

"The Takeaway" helps listeners connect the dots between what you see happening in Washington and what you see happening in your own life; what you see happening in the world, and how it impacts us every day.  "The Takeaway" is where we have a national daily conversation.

Tanzina Vega hosts "The Takeaway" live from WKSU's studios on Wednesday and Thursday this week.
Credit MATTHEW SEPTIMUS / WNYC

Can you think of an example of a story that really hit the mark for "The Takeaway"?

I’ll give you two examples. At "The Takeaway" we try to go deep. We know there’s too much ‘surface’ out there, we know that news has become a commodity, so we try to go deep. 

Two examples of how we did that: the first is going out to Puerto Rico for the one year anniversary of hurricane Maria.  I took a step back from the host chair and spent one week on the ground talking to people that I knew, family members of mine, going to parts of the island that people hadn’t been talked to for quite some time, and getting a week’s worth of reporting to get a different story of resilience, of their relationship with the U.S., and nuances that had gotten loss in the coverage leading up to the one year anniversary.  You can hear that on TheTakeaway.org.

The other series that we did: we’re living in a moment right now, a lot of people are calling it the #MeToo movement. Obviously women are having a moment, there’s a reckoning happening with women in the U.S. and around the world. And as part of that we decided to look at rage, and we called it Hysterical. We really examined what happens when women get angry, when women push back. What does that sound like? What does that look like, if it happens in the workplace, if it happens in your personal life? The ways that women are limited in how they can express themselves emotionally. We took four days, in different segments, talking with experts around the country to really dig deep into the ways that we allow men to walk the world and not women.

Why is it important that we have this space for these conversations to take place on the radio?

Radio, and by extension podcasts and audio are a) intimate and b) accessible.  People can listen to radio – they don’t need a subscription to do that. It’s democratic. It’s the first thing people turn to in an emergency. Radio and podcasts still have an important role in this conversation with the focus on storytelling, the context, and the information.  We don’t need somebody to look good to talk about them. We need to have a good story to communicate.

Congratulations on your award here at Kent State University!

Thank you!  It’s always an honor to be honored!  When someone taps you and recognizes you, that’s always humbling.  I’m going to be doing a lecture as part of the McGruder series and I'll do a Q&A with the students, and we’ll also be broadcasting "The Takeaway" from there.

Tanzina Vega will receive Kent State University’s McGruder Award for diversity in journalism Wednesday at 2:00pm. She will also be hosting "The Takeaway" live from WKSU’s studios Wednesday and Thursday mornings starting at 9am.