Krulwich at "Postopolis!", 2005
Robert Krulwich is an American radio and television journalist whose specialty is explaining complex topics in depth. He has worked as a full-time employee of ABC, CBS, National Public Radio, and Pacifica. He has done assignment pieces for ABC's Nightline and World News Tonight, as well as PBS's Frontline, NOVA, and NOW with Bill Moyers. TV Guide called him "the most inventive network reporter in television", and New York Magazine wrote that he's "the man who simplifies without being simple".
Krulwich received his bachelor's degree in U.S. history from Oberlin College in 1969 and his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School in 1974. Just two months later, he abandoned his pursuit of a law career to cover the Watergate hearings for Pacifica Radio. In 1976, he became Washington bureau chief for Rolling Stone.
From 1978 to 1985, he was the business and economics correspondent for NPR. Among other creative efforts, he recorded an opera called "Rato Interesso" to explain interest rates. He went on to host the PBS arts series The Edge.
In 1984, he joined CBS and appeared regularly on This Morning, 48 Hours, and Nightwatch with Charlie Rose. During the first Gulf War, he co-anchored the CBS program America Tonight. In 1994, he joined ABC.
Annually, he hosts a semi-fictional year-in-review program called Backfire for NPR. In 1995, at the invitation of President and Mrs. Clinton, the group who collaborates with Krulwich to produce Backfire performed at the White House.
Krulwich, in 2004, became the host and managing editor of the innovative PBS science program NOVA scienceNOW. The show often tackled science stories considered too complex for television, sometimes using cartoons and musical production numbers to illustrate abstract concepts. In 2005, Krulwich re-established a relationship with NPR, where he made regular contributions to several programs on science topics, while continuing to produce occasional segments for ABC News. By early 2006, with several projects going at once, Krulwich decided to end his work on NOVA scienceNOW after only five episodes.
Krulwich regularly moderates discussions on scientific topics at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. (He is an alumnus of their nursery school.) His presentations at the YMHA have featured such prominent scientists as Brian Greene and James D. Watson.
Awards and honors
In his Frontline role, he has won an Alfred I. duPont–Columbia University Award for his coverage of campaign finance in the 1992 U.S. Presidential campaign; a national Emmy Award for his investigation of privacy on the Internet, High Stakes in Cyberspace; and a George Polk Award for an hour on the savings and loan scandal. His ABC special on Barbie also won an Emmy.
He has received a multitude of other awards for his reporting, including the Extraordinary Communicator Award from the National Cancer Institute in 2000, four consecutive Gainsbrugh Awards from the Economics Broadcasting Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science Excellence in Television Award in 2001 for a NOVA special on the human genome. He also won the 2001 AAAS Science Journalism Award for his NOVA special, Cracking the Code of Life.
TV Guide named Krulwich to its "all-star reporting team". He was included in Esquire's "Registry of Outstanding Men and Women" in 1989.
In 2010, WNYC received a Peabody Award for RadioLab.
Krulwich lives in New York City and Shelter Island, NY with his wife, Tamar Lewin, a national reporter for the New York Times. They have two children, Jesse (who graduated from Earlham College in 2007) and Nora Ann (Bowdoin College, Class of 2011). The couple was featured in Act 2 of Episode 226 ("Reruns") of the Chicago Public Radio program This American Life recounting their separate (and divergent) accounts of an event in their lives.
Following an outcry by Kao Kalia Yang over a September 24, 2012, Radiolab segment on yellow rain and the Hmong people in which he interviewed her and her uncle, Krulwich issued an apology on September 30 writing, "I now can hear that my tone was oddly angry. That's not acceptable -- especially when talking to a man who has suffered through a nightmare in Southeast Asia that was beyond horrific."
Yang did not take the apology well, complaining: "Everybody in the show had a name, a profession, institutional affiliation except Eng Yang, who was identified as “Hmong guy,” and me, “his niece.” The fact that I am an award-winning writer was ignored. The fact that my uncle was an official radio man and documenter of the Hmong experience to the Thai government during the war was absent."