Ari Shapiro has been exceeding expectations for quite some time. The first reporter with National Public Radio to be promoted to correspondent before age 30, Shapiro became NPR’s White House correspondent last year after five years as their justice correspondent. Between stints singing at venues like the Hollywood Bowl with the self-described “little orchestra” Pink Martini and traveling with President Obama as the 2012 campaign kicks into gear, Shapiro spoke with me about his community service and what it meant to win the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize in 2005 for his 14-minute “All Things Considered” piece “The Impact of Methamphetamine Use on the Gay Community.”
Has your youth ever been a hindrance?
The funny thing is that even though I think I’m on the young side, I’ve been at NPR for 10 years. When I started, I thought people would not take me seriously. But now, if people don’t take me seriously because I’m young, I try to ignore that.
I understand you were just in San Francisco and you saw Tales of the City. What did you think of the show?
It’s so moving. They created a whole world. It does for San Francisco in the 1970s what Rent did for New York in the 1990s with funny scenes and brilliant acting. My friends are involved with it and I’m biased.
Of all the awards you’ve won, which was the most personally significant?
The Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize was very meaningful to me because it was the first time that I’d received formal recognition for work I have done, and it made me think, ‘I can do this.’ Daniel Schorr is an icon of the journalism world and someone I had a chance to work with personally. The story itself was something I felt like I was going out on a limb to do. When I was working on it, I thought, ‘Well, it will either get me fired or it will be the best work I do.’ I went into bathhouses and talked to gay guys about meth use. So, it was a little risque, a little edgy for NPR. My colleagues were very supportive and to be recognized for that was really meaningful.
Tell me about your involvement with Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
I was teamed up with a little boy about nine years ago. We’re not doing things within the organization in a formalized way. When he was eight, it was important to have a formalized relationship, meeting the same day and time each week. Now that we’ve known each other and he’s grown up and in high school, it has grown and evolved into a more regular friendship. I’d been teaching Hebrew school at a synagogue in town and ultimately felt I was having a minor impact on a large number of people who were less in need than most. I wanted to have a more significant impact on a smaller number of people.
You previously worked in Atlanta and Miami. Did you ever spend much time in Austin?
I would love to spend more time in Austin. I’ve been once or twice for only a day or two. I would love to get to know the city better.
How’s married life?
I met my husband when we were in college [at Yale]. We lived together for several years before we got married. It’s boring in the best possible way.
What’s the feeling you get when you’re singing with Pink Martini?
It’s a dream come true! A band I have seen dozens of times in concerts and been a fan of since I was a teenager, when they were a small local band. Sharing a stage with people who I respect so much who are such good musicians and to do that in venues as iconic as the Hollywood Bowl. It’s hard to describe how surreal that experience is. It’s completely exhilarating.
I’m looking forward to covering the presidential race. It’s the first one I have covered in a significant way. I’ll go into it with my eyes and ears open, trying to learn as much as I can.