Radio Flyer

By Sarah Wildman

Originally published on Advocate.com October 21 2008 11:00 PM ET

Ari Shapiro, the 30-year-old justice department correspondent for National Public Radio, bounces around the network’s Washington, D.C., headquarters, greeting colleagues on every floor. “People talk about how they grew up listening to Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite,” Shapiro says, settling in at a table on the roof of the building. “In my family it was NPR. So to be working with people like Robert Siegel and Nina Totenberg -- and to occasionally host Morning Edition -- is kind of surreal, even now, having been here eight years.”

Shapiro arrived at NPR months after graduating from Yale University in 2000 and was nurtured by the radio’s legal reporters, specifically Totenberg. He soon took off for stints around the country, filing stories on everything from hurricanes to the right-to-life battle over Terri Schiavo, before coming back to D.C. to cover national legal affairs. Out since high school, Shapiro has shared his life with lawyer Michael Gottlieb for 10 years (yes, since they were both students at Yale). In 2004 the pair married in San Francisco -- “annulled!” Shapiro says, referring to the fact that Mayor Gavin Newsom’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in the city were soon overturned. California has since legalized marriage equality, but Gottlieb and Shapiro, who share a town house in D.C.’s trendy U Street district, haven’t remarried.

“At NPR, I’ve never felt like a ‘gay journalist,’ ” he says, “any more than a Jewish journalist or a left-handed journalist.” Nevertheless, it was a gay-themed story in 2005 that won Shapiro the prestigious Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. Sneaking his microphone into bathhouses in Miami and Chicago, Shapiro reported on the connection between crystal meth use and the spiraling rate of HIV transmission.

Despite his rapid ascent -- he was the youngest in NPR history to achieve correspondent status --Shapiro remains humble: “I still have a lot to learn, and I think the best place to do that is here in Washington.”