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A new chapter for Sylvia Poggioli

<strong>Sylvia Poggioli</strong>
Wanyu Zhang
Sylvia Poggioli
Sylvia Poggioli in her Rome studio
/ Courtesy of Sylvia Poggioli
Courtesy of Sylvia Poggioli
Sylvia Poggioli in her Rome studio

In a note to editorial staff, Didrik Schanche, International Editor, and Edith Chapin, Acting SVP of News, made the following announcement:

Imagining NPR without Sylvia Poggioli veers toward the impossible. But after 41 years, Sylvia says, "It's time to hang up my headphones."

She is the longest-serving reporter on the International Desk and an NPR icon. For many, her name is synonymous with NPR.

Sylvia's wide-ranging, often hard-hitting and always rich storytelling helped NPR distinguish itself in its early years as a news organization with deep interest in the wider world. Her work helped build the foundation for what is today NPR's award-winning International Desk.

Her lilting, Italian-accented signoff is widely recognized and beloved by listeners. And her star power excites world leaders.

In Belgrade in 2010, reporters were crowded around then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who was in the Balkans urging dialogue between Kosovo and Serbia. She was holding court at an off-the-record debrief in a hotel bar. Sylvia, who was on assignment in Belgrade, went along to the backgrounder with Michele Kelemen, who was traveling with Clinton. As Michele started to introduce Sylvia, Clinton stood up in excitement saying, "You are Sylvia Poggioli!!" She was thrilled to meet someone she had listened to for years — a key voice in the coverage of the Balkans.

Sylvia's base has been Rome, but her reporting has taken her around the world – from covering the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, to Norway to cover the aftermath of the brutal attacks by a right-wing extremist; to Greece, Spain, and Portugal reporting on the Eurozone crisis. She has traveled with Pope Francis to Cuba, the United States, Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. These are but some of the places she's gone.

Sylvia Poggioli with Pope Francis
/ Courtesy of Sylvia Poggioli
Courtesy of Sylvia Poggioli
Sylvia Poggioli with Pope Francis

Over her career, Sylvia has been honored by many awards, including a George Foster Peabody Award, National Women's Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Awards, the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize, and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of the war in Kosovo. In 2009, she received the Maria Grazia Cutuli Award for foreign reporting.

Before she leaves NPR at the end of the month, she will be joining Scott Simon on Weekend Edition on March 25 for a farewell interview. Among her post-NPR plans are to work on a biography of her father, Renato Poggioli, an Italian academic and anti-fascist who was forced to flee Italy under Mussolini. Sylvia was born in Providence, Rhode Island, but moved to Italy after college under a Fulbright Scholarship.

We'll let her have the last word....

Didi and Edith

From Sylvia.....

After 41 years reporting for NPR and 51 years in journalism, I have decided to move on. 

It's been a wild ride – from endemic Italian political chaos (and food, art and movies) and three popes (and scandals) at the Vatican, to the fall of Communism in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and more than a decade covering disinformation, wars and war crimes in the Balkans. And in between, tracking the impact of immigration throughout a mostly unwelcoming Europe, and traveling across the globe, from Cuba to Myanmar to Iraq with Pope Francis.

Most importantly, I want to list the names of the many terrific foreign editors and desk editors I worked with, whose guidance, knowledge, encouragement and friendship have been vital for my work at NPR, in particular Paul Allen, John McChesney, Cadi Simon, John Felton, Julie McCarthy, Elizabeth Becker, Bob Duncan, Loren Jenkins, Doug Roberts, Ted Clark, Edith Chapin, Martha Wexler, Larry Kaplow, Nishant Dahiya, Mark Katkov and the fabulous Didi Schanche.

And I want to express my thanks to the many talented and charming producers I've had the opportunity to work with and learn from– Katie Davis and I shared the thrill of the Velvet Revolution in Prague; Taki Telonidis and I tried to make sense of Greek political scandals and had some very close calls with Serbian thugs in Bosnia; Jeff Rogers and I endured weeks of fruitless anti-Milosevic protests in Belgrade, we explored anti-Americanism in Europe and Europeans' complicated reactions to – and rejections of --  the influx of Muslim refugees in France, Britain, Germany, The Netherlands and beyond; and Deb Amos, yes the great Deb!, from whom I learned so much about radio reporting as we covered Mafia revelations, repentant domestic terrorists and Italy's bourgeois Communist Party.

Sylvia Poggioli with mystery writer Donna Leon in Venice
Valerio Muscella / NPR
Sylvia Poggioli & Tiziana Tacchi, owner-chef of the restaurant Il Grillo e' un Bon Cantore in the town of Chiusi.

I'm often asked what are my favorite interviews—they include a mafia-busting woman magistrate in Sicily, mystery writer Donna Leon in Venice and architect Renzo Piano at his home in Genoa.

But the most moving stories are those of hundreds of refugees I've interviewed –Muslims, Albanians, Croats and Serbs in the Balkans, ethnic Hungarians fleeing Ceausescu's Romania, and Africans, Syrians and Asians fleeing war, hunger and poverty who survived perilous crossings and reached Lampedusa, the door to Europe.

There is one man, whose name I never learned, who sticks in my mind. He was a Russian, a typesetter from Kyiv, one of 4000 stranded in 1988 in an Italian seaside town after the US began rejecting visa applications from Soviet Jews. We met on the beach at sunset, he was wearing a dark wool cap and a long overcoat. He talked of international brotherhood, and with his cane, drew a map of the world in the sand. Pointing to the western horizon, he shook his head in bewilderment. He just couldn't understand why people can't go where they want to go. 

My last day will be March 31st.

Cheers to all,


Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Didi Schanche is NPR's chief international editor. Her team of correspondents, based around the world, is on the scene for breaking news and specializes in coverage of issues of international policy and national security. NPR's award-winning international coverage is consistently recognized for its excellence.
Edith Chapin is the Vice President and Executive Editor of NPR News. In that role she resumes responsibility for the NPR newsroom, setting daily news priorities, and directing all of NPR's news-gathering teams. She has full authority to work across the newsroom to ensure that desks, shows and digital teams are rowing in the same direction on major stories and coverage, so that NPR can be consistent and collaborative in our approach to news on all of our platforms.