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Remembering Brenda Box

Brenda

A truly loved and appreciated colleague passed away this morning. Brenda was an editor with NPR’s Newscast unit. There wasn’t a word spoken by an anchor or an NPR correspondent that didn’t get her keen eye, and eventually her approval. I was her boss. This is the note I sent to NPR staff around the world today. The outpouring of affection has been enormous. She will live in our hearts forever.

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We are deeply saddened to announce that our beloved and respected colleague, Newscast Editor, Brenda Box, has passed away after a courageous four years dealing with pancreatic cancer. She was 58. Anyone who ever dealt with Brenda knows what a special and unique person she was; equal parts cynical and sensitive, outspoken and hilarious, brilliant and fun and warm and self-deprecating.

Correspondent, Carrie Kahn, who largely dealt with Brenda on the phone, but grew close to her anyway, put it this way in a recent note to Newscast staff: “Every time I called newscast and she answered the phone, no matter how stressed or busy she was she always had a few moments for a quick chat, great banter and that memorable laugh. Not that filing spots is not fun enough, but Brenda made it something special, personal and among friends.”

Newscast’s Korva Coleman has a further explanation of Brenda’s role in the unit: “Although you never heard her name on an NPR broadcast, she shaped what you heard. While you never heard her speak to you on the radio, she guided your understanding of events. Brenda Box was the editor every journalist dreams of, one who elicits the best from reporters and quietly removes the errors…Brenda often concluded her conversations with her trademark, “Cool beans.” That was the indication that her exacting eye had reviewed the reporter’s work and approved.”

There is no justice served remembering Brenda only in the context of her health issues in recent years. But it must be said that in this particular respect, she taught us all the true meaning of gentle grace under great adversity.

Brenda graduated with a journalism degree from Colorado State University, worked as Capitol Hill correspondent for USA Today Broadcasting/Gannett News Service, as an anchor for the UPI and NBC/Mutual radio networks, and as a reporter for West Virginia Public Radio and WTOP Radio before coming to NPR ten years ago. Outside of broadcasting she worked for the Wilderness Society, the National Wildlife Federation and served as Press Secretary for the District of Columbia’s City Administrator.

She was a long-time member of the National Association of Black Journalists, winning an NABJ Excellence award for a series on Black Pioneers. The Gannett News Service honored her work for radio coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington.

Brenda is survived by her husband, Steve Johnson, her daughters, Chantel and Chanel and her son, Anthony.

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By way of remembrance, the family asks that donations in Brenda’s name, be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Pancan.org.

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