John E. McChesney, a long-time NPR reporter and co-founder of the Sonoma Speakers Series, died June 4, 2018 at his home in Sonoma, California, surrounded by family members. McChesney and his wife, Wendy von Wiederhold, had spent the last few years residing in the home on Sonoma Mountain.
John was News Director for WYSO in the 1970s. John taught literature at Antioch College 1968-74, and earned his BA from Southern Methodist University and his MA from Stanford. He completed a dissertation on Robert Tressell's book, The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist, and was active in the TA's union (AFT local 1816). John lived on Wallace Stegner's property in the hills and there's a portrait of him in Stegner's anti-hippie book, All the Little Live Things. He got disgusted with Stanford and went off to Antioch quite early, possibly in 1968.
He was a member of the Antioch Radical Studies Institute. John invited Stanford friends over to Antioch to engage in target practice. Friends remember him with a chromed 44 magnum revolver.
John spent nearly 30 years at NPR as an award-winning editor, correspondent and news executive. He established two of the news department’s fundamental operating elements, both the National and Foreign Desks, which have repeatedly won the highest professional honors in journalism. As an NPR correspondent John has covered environmental issues in Asia, technology in Silicon Valley, food and agriculture in the rural West, and national security, including multiple assignments to the war in Iraq.
He has worked in or directed coverage on every continent, with experience leading dozens of reporters working in scores of countries under a wide variety of conditions, including hostilities. Now he is returning to the region closest to his heart, the American West. His best hope is that while covering the hostilities afflicting the rural West, weapons stay in the holster.
Reared in Maine and Missouri, McChesney spent four years in the Air Force and then attended Southern Methodist University.
John McChesney, Former Faculty, Antioch College. Link
Remembering John McChesney, WYSO, June 12, 2018. Link
Friends Remember Former NPR Reporter John McChesney, by Christian Kallen, Sonoma-Index Tribune, June 6, 2018. Link
Looking Back on Formative Days in College Radio, interview featuring John McChesney, NPR, June 30, 2007. Recording and transcript. Link
Antioch Closure Ends Chapter in Higher Education, NPR, June 24, 2007. Recording and transcript. Link
John McChesney, Chronicler of the Rural West, by Geoff McGhee, The Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University, June 7, 2018. Link
An Unquiet Landscape: The American West's New Energy Frontier, by John McChesney, an annotated video documentary of the Rural West Initiative, Bill Lane Center for the American West, Stanford University. Link
Stories by John McChesney, archived radio stories by John McChesney, NPR. Link