Renee Montagne

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.

Montagne's most recent assignment was a yearlong collaboration with ProPublica reporter Nina Martin, investigating the alarming rate of maternal mortality in the U.S., as compared to other developed countries. The series, called "Lost Mothers," was recognized with more than a dozen awards in American journalism, including a Peabody Award, a George Polk Award, and Harvard's Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Journalism. The series was also named a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize.

From 2004 to 2016, Montagne co-hosted NPR's Morning Edition, the most widely heard radio news program in the United States. Her first experience as host of an NPR newsmagazine came in 1987, when she, along with Robert Siegel, were named the new hosts of All Things Considered.

After leaving All Things Considered, Montagne traveled to South Africa in early 1990, arriving to report from there on the day Nelson Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison. In 1994, she and a small team of NPR reporters were awarded an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for their coverage of South Africa's historic elections that led to Mandela becoming that country's first black president.

Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Montagne has made 10 extended reporting trips to Afghanistan. She has traveled to every major city, from Kabul to Kandahar, to peaceful villages, and to places where conflict raged. She has profiled Afghanistan's presidents and power brokers, but focused on the stories of Afghans at the heart of that complex country: school girls, farmers, mullahs, poll workers, midwives, and warlords. Her coverage has been honored by the Overseas Press Club, and, for stories on Afghan women in particular, by the Gracie Awards.

One of her most cherished honors dates to her days as a freelance reporter in the 1980s, when Montagne and her collaborator, the writer Thulani Davis, were awarded "First Place in Radio" by the National Association of Black Journalists for their series "Fanfare for the Warriors." It told the story of African-American musicians in the military bands from WW1 to Vietnam.

Montagne began her career in radio pretty much by accident, when she joined a band of friends, mostly poets and musicians, who were creating their own shows at a new, scrappy little San Francisco community station called KPOO. Her show was called Women's Voices.

Montagne graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California, Berkeley. Her career includes teaching broadcast writing at New York University's Graduate Department of Journalism (now the Carter Institute).

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The community of Ridgecrest, Calif., is getting a clearer view of the damage caused by last night's 7.1 magnitude earthquake. There are reports of power outages, fires and some injuries in the area about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Sharon McNary of member station KPCC is in Ridgecrest and joins us now. Good morning.

SHARON MCNARY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And you just arrived a few hours ago. Tell us what you're seeing.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The community of Ridgecrest, Calif., is getting a clearer view of the damage caused by last night's 7.1 magnitude earthquake. There are reports of power outages, fires and some injuries in the area about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. Sharon McNary of member station KPCC is in Ridgecrest and joins us now. Good morning.

SHARON MCNARY, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And you just arrived a few hours ago. Tell us what you're seeing.

When Bruce Holsinger heard about the "Operation Varsity Blues" college admissions bribery scandal he admits he felt "a shiver of self-recognition."

"I don't think there's a parent in America who hasn't had anxiety about where their kid goes to school," he says.

The rock band Luxury started out like many other punk and indie bands in the 1990s, as college kids just looking for other people to make music with. Less common was their cultural context: They hailed from the small Georgia town of Toccoa, in a solidly evangelical milieu, and while the members were Christians they often found the venues and retailers of that community didn't quite know what to do with their brash lyrics and stage presence.

During World War II, the British were worried about their own countrymen with Nazi sympathies.

That's the historical basis for Kate Atkinson's new novel, Transcription. It follows a character named Juliet Armstrong, who was recruited to the British Secret Service as a teenager to help monitor fascist sympathizers in 1940.

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When Cayti Kane delivered a baby boy via cesarean section last year, her team of doctors was prepared.

Kane had been diagnosed with placenta accreta, a condition that increased the likelihood of a dangerous hemorrhage during delivery. When that happened, she had an emergency hysterectomy. Kane and her son went home healthy.

Boz Scaggs is likely best known for his affiliation with the Steve Miller Band or 1976 songs like "Lido Shuffle" and "Lowdown." But through the years, he's also been crafting jazz and blues albums in homage to his earliest influences.

It's the summer of 2008, and Andrei Kaplan doesn't have a whole lot going for him in New York. Money's tight, his girlfriend dumped him, and, at 33, his academic career has stalled. So, at the urging of his brother, he returns to Russia, where he was born, to take care of his aging grandmother, Baba Seva.

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Here is a challenge for you. Name one great painting that makes you laugh. If none comes to mind now or ever, that's probably because...

JUDITH BRODIE: There's a high seriousness, I would say, to paintings...

Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master's degree at Cleveland State University when she found out she was pregnant.

"I was 25, in really good health. I had been an athlete all my life. I threw shot put for my college, so I was in my prime," she says with a laugh.

Though it wasn't planned, Blackwell's pregnancy was embraced by her large and loving family and her boyfriend, who would soon become her husband. Her labor was quick, and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy.

Journalist Rania Abouzeid has had a front-row view of the conflict in Syria from the very beginning.

"I witnessed what was one of the first demonstrations in Damascus in late February 2011, and I was trying to figure out what it all meant and what was happening," she says.

Abouzeid's new book No Turning Back: Life, Loss, And Hope In Wartime Syria traces the stories of four Syrians from those small protests through a bloody war that still has no end in sight.

The Night Diary is novel set at a pivotal — and bloody — moment in history, and told in the voice of a 12-year-old girl. Nisha takes us on her personal journey as part of the mass exodus of millions of Hindus and Muslims across the border between India and newly established Pakistan, a turbulent time known as Partition.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It seems every mother has a tale of discovering she was pregnant. Samantha Blackwell was working her way through a master's degree at Cleveland State, and she'd be the first to say her reaction may not be what you'd expect.

SAMANTHA BLACKWELL: I was 25, in really good health. I'd been an athlete all my life. It was not a planned pregnancy.

MONTAGNE: So when you found out, you were excited, even though not planned?

BLACKWELL: Very far from excited.

All Nerve is an apt title from a band that's survived as much as the members of The Breeders have. Addiction and infighting broke up the four musicians responsible for the 1993's alternative staple Last Splash. Though the group has returned in various incarnations since then, it would be 25 years before the classic lineup — twin sisters Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs and Jim Macpherson — would record together again.

Arguably the most successful musical theater composer ever, Andrew Lloyd Webber looks back on his early days in the business in the new memoir, Unmasked.

The opioid epidemic has hit Huntington, W.Va., very hard, with an overdose rate 10 times the national average.

Documentary filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon chose Huntington as the setting for her short doc about America's opioid crisis, Heroin(e). It's now nominated for an Oscar.

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Seun Kuti was just 14 when he became the lead singer of Egypt 80 — the Nigerian band that had carried the infectious groove of Afrobeat worldwide under the direction of Seun's father, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. The musician says keeping the band together after Fela's death in 1997 was a way of sustaining his message — which often included railing against government corruption and social injustice.

On a melancholy Saturday this past February, Shalon Irving's "village" — the friends and family she had assembled to support her as a single mother — gathered at a funeral home in a prosperous black neighborhood in southwest Atlanta to say goodbye.

The Pakistani army rescued a Canadian-American family last week who had been held by a Taliban-affiliated group in Afghanistan for five years.

Canadian Joshua Boyle and his American wife Caitlan Coleman had been held captive by the Haqqani network since 2012. The couple's three children were all born in captivity. The family is now recovering in Ontario.

In a brief statement during a press conference in Toronto, Boyle said his wife had been raped and their infant daughter killed while they were in captivity.

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Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in late September, and nearly all the island is still without power. In remote parts of the island, some communities are just now digging out from the storm's destruction.

When Sandra Daugherty's father died unexpectedly at 73, there was no plan. The only thing the family knew was what Grady Ross Daugherty didn't want.

"He was really freaked out about cement liners," said Sandra. "Like this Tupperware container that you get placed in, in the ground. He hated the idea of that. But other than that no wishes. He would say just surprise me. With a twinkle in his eye."

She decided not to choose a standard funeral.

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This is The Call-In.

(SOUNDBITE OF CORDUROI'S "MY DEAR")

In recent months, mothers who nearly died in the hours and days after giving birth have repeatedly told ProPublica and NPR that their doctors and nurses were often slow to recognize the warning signs that their bodies weren't healing properly.

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