Scott Simon has one of the most recognizable voices in radio, probably because he’s occupied the same Saturday morning slot on National Public Radio for 30 years.
As host of “Weekend Edition Saturday,” he helms the two-hour news and information program that carries over the week’s top stories – but includes gentler lifestyle and sports stories as well, to help ease the audience into the weekend.
The radio program is only part of his very busy life. He’s also a television correspondent on “CBS Sunday Morning,” and author of several books including the most recent, “My Cubs: A Love Story,” about his lifelong affection for his hometown baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.
Less well known is that Simon has a close family connection with the wine country, and is a frequent visitor to Calistoga and Santa Rosa: His stepsister owns a horse ranch that almost straddles Sonoma and Napa counties.
Next Monday, Aug. 13, Simon becomes the latest guest in the ongoing Sonoma Speaker Series, fulfilling a commitment made to the series’ cofounder, the late John McChesney, who died in June. In a telephone conversation recently – conducted moments after Simon concluded his Saturday morning broadcast – we talked journalism, social media and baseball. But we began by talking with Simon about his long acquaintance with John McChesney.
The passing of John McChesney hit a lot of locals hard, whether they knew him personally or simply through his work on NPR and, more recently, with the Speaker Series. Were you aware of his illness?
We had dinner with John when we went out there in April. He told me, very bluntly, about his illness. Although he thought he would be with us until the end of the year. And, he said, “Would you come out and let me interview you on stage?” And I said, “Of course.” And then things happened just, as I don’t need to tell you, a lot more quickly than I, at least, thought they would. (McChesney succumbed to leukemia on June 5.)
He didn’t live in Sonoma that long, but he certainly had an impact.
Well, he was a singular personality. There’s no doubt about it. He was gruff and loving and kind and tough, but mostly on himself. Fierce. You know, a man of real convictions.
Did you have a chance to work with him at NPR?
Yes, absolutely. He was my editor when I was on the foreign desk. He was my editor when I was in El Salvador. He was my editor, for a certain period of time, when I was in Chicago too.
You said you had dinner with him. Was that in Sonoma?
It was in Calistoga. At the Sam’s Club. We’re out there a couple of times a year. Our family owns the Mark West Stables in Santa Rosa. I don’t know if I’ll be there for the Sonoma County Fair, but our children love that every year when we go there.
It’s one of our famous family stories, that the first time I went to the Sonoma County Fair, I had one of the huge dill pickles they have there. And my wife, who is French, said, “Oh, they are so good because they are fermented in chardonnay.” And I said, “Really?” And, I believed that for, like, 15 years.
Scott Simon in Sonoma
NPR newscaster Scott Simon will be the guest for the next Sonoma Speaker Series, Monday, Aug. 13, at Hanna Boys Center, beginning at 7 p.m. He will be interviewed on stage by Amy Wallace.
Tickets are $35. A VIP reception is held at 6 p.m.; tickets are $75.
More on this event and ticket links at sonomaspeakerseries.com.
You can learn more about Scott Simon at npr.org/people/3874941/scott-simon.