Carl Kasell, Famed NPR News Announcer and Personality, Dies at 84

Kasell announced the news on “Morning Edition” and kept score on “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” during his nearly 40 years with NPR

Carl Kasell
Getty Images

Carl Kasell, known for his decades-long career on NPR as a news announcer on programs like “Morning Edition,” and later in life as scorekeeper and judge on “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” died Tuesday of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

Born and raised in Goldsboro, North Carolina, Kasell began his radio career while still in high school, as a late-night music DJ on a local station. Later, while attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kasell helped found student-run station WUNC, now an NPR member station.

Following college and a brief stint in the military, Kasell returned to Goldsboro, where he took a job as a DJ at a local all-news station. He left for the Washington, D.C. metro area in 1965 and became news director at WAVA in Arlington, Virginia. While serving in this role, Kasell notably hired Katie Couric as an intern, her first broadcasting job.

Kasell joined NPR in 1975 on a part-time basis as the news announcer for the weekend edition of “All Things Considered.” He went full-time with NPR in 1979, taking on the additional role of news announcer for NPR’s “Morning Edition,” a role Kasell held until 2009.

During his almost 40-years with NPR, Kasell served as one of its signature voices, helping to establish the radio network’s serious, measured tone of voice. But he memorably subverted that persona with the launch of NPR’s game show “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” in 1998.

Kasell served as announcer, judge, and scorekeeper on the game show until his retirement in 2014. Notably, the show didn’t have the budget for actual prizes during its first few years, so it offered listeners the chance to have Kasell record an outgoing message on their answering machines. Kasell would go on to record more than 2,000 such messages.

After announcing his retirement, Kasell recorded his final episode of “Wait Wait” on May 15, 2014 and broadcast two days later. President Barack Obama, Stephen Colbert, Tom Hanks, and Couric called in express appreciation for Kasell.

“For more than 30 years, he brought unflappable authority to the news,” NPR said on Twitter after his death was announced.