Reporter and host Tamika Smith, who has worked in various roles at WAMU for the past eight years, will take on the role of the station’s local host of All Things Considered, the station announced Tuesday morning.
Smith is a familiar voice for listeners during WAMU’s afternoon hours — she’s filled in as the interim host of All Things Considered since the summer, following longtime host Jonathan Wilson’s departure in June. Before that, she served as a weekend host and reporter in the newsroom, expanding the station’s local news output. She joined WAMU in 2014 as a part-time weekend host. [Disclosure: WAMU is the parent company of DCist.]
Smith says she’s excited to be part of a changing public media landscape and that her new role is the culmination of more than 15 years she’s dedicated to honing her craft as a professional journalist and host.
“I’ve always wanted to bring diversity to the airwaves; and diversity in so many ways, not just race,” Smith says. “I remember a time in public radio when diversity wasn’t even something that existed. Now, we’re entering a new age where every voice matters. I feel like WAMU is doing that, and that by putting me in this seat, they are making the statement that diversity matters in Washington, D.C.”
As a reporter, Smith’s coverage has included in-depth reporting and interviews on how local Black residents are dealing with sickle cell anemia; legal issues surrounding development of Bethesda’s Moses African Cemetery; and how local composers and performers honored George Floyd through music.
Her recent coverage of how local families cope with sickle cell disease was also featured on 1A, detailing her own family’s experiences with the disease.
“Our listeners turn to All Things Considered not just to catch up on the national and local news of the day, but also to discover interesting things happening in the world around them,” Douglas Bell, WAMU’s program director, said in a statement. “Tamika has demonstrated her strong ability to connect with our listeners through her warm and inviting on-air presence. The curiosity and authenticity that she brings to the role make her a natural fit to serve as our weekday afternoon drive-time host.”
Smith came to D.C. from Miami, FL in 2003 to study broadcast journalism and theater at Howard University. She first began learning the craft by writing for the campus paper, The Hilltop, and interned for numerous stations around the district. Smith gained commercial radio experience as an anchor for Keepin’ It Real with Al Sharpton and the Russ Parr Morning Show, and launched her public media career with an internship at the former NPR program , with host Michel Martin.
Smith, who is of Caribbean descent, will become the first Black woman to be a full-time All Things Considered host for WAMU. (NPR’s Lakshmi Singh was the first woman and first woman of color to hold that role at WAMU in the 1990s.) Smith says she’s covered and observed the many changes to the D.C. area over the past 20 years, and brings that knowledge with her as a host.
“I feel like we’re making history here at WAMU, in a sense that [the station is] putting someone like me in a seat that we haven’t really been able to see across the country, in a major time spot,” Smith adds. “This is a top-ten market, and they’re hiring someone who is young and also experienced, but comes from a very unique background. To me, that shows that WAMU wants the news that people hear on our station to reflect the community that we all live in.”
WAMU/DCist Chief Content Officer Tom Hudson said in a statement that in her new role, Smith will meet audiences where they are and continue her work on the local segment of NPR’s Consider This podcast.
“Tamika is a natural storyteller who knows the DMV and who the WAMU audience knows to rely on for timely and compelling news weekday afternoons,” Hudson added. “Her presence on-air during the afternoons and early evenings helps ensure WAMU as the place for our community to connect with the most important and interesting stories of the day.”
Smith lives in Gaithersburg, and in her free time she enjoys reading everything she can get her hands on, listening to audiobooks, and playing neo-soul music. She starts as the local All Things Considered host immediately.
This story was reported under the guidance of editor Teresa Frontado. WAMU and American University senior executives did not review this story prior to publication.
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