This coming week is Laura Knoy’s last week as host of The Exchange, which she has hosted for over 25 years at my old station, New Hampshire Public Radio. Lots of people are paying tribute to her this week, and she deserves it. Laura is great.

I am not her closest friend, I haven’t known her the longest, but I did probably wear more hats around her than most people. I was one of her producers for a while. Other times I ran the board for her on the show. Or I’d take photos for the station’s website when she hosted. Later, I became one of her fill-in hosts, so I sat in her chair and tried to ask questions the way she would. She’s interviewed me, and I’ve interviewed her. And what I’ve learned from all of this is that Laura is one of those people who makes a very difficult job look easy.

A daily talk show can be a grind, especially for the host, who has to internalize a phone book’s worth of detailed information, turn it into an hour’s worth of questions and put all those questions to the guests, all while watching the clock, bringing in comments from listeners on the phone and online, and having the engineer and the producers in your ear. And while being subjected to this sensory overload, the talk show host has to sound warm and engaging, while also being ready to turn the discussion and the show on a dime if that’s what’s called for. And there’s no relief when it’s over, because the next day’s show is looming when the last one ends. I was always very, very tired after filling in for Laura, and the most I ever did was a week or so at a time. Imagine doing that for decades!

And some of the shows were put together at the very last minute, whenever there was a breaking news story. I remember a show after a huge storm had flooded parts of the state and caused a fair amount of damage. The producers had to book a lot of the show just before it began, which meant not much prep time and – just as crucially – everybody was racing around before the top of the hour. It’s hard to get into a Zen state as a host when there’s noise and uncertainty around. But at 9am, the mics opened, the music played, and Laura got the job done. She moved smoothly from guest to guest, made sure they gave people the information they needed to know, and even had time for a jaw-dropping live radio moment: a flood victim called in and described the water levels in his house as he returned home for the first time since the storm. The producers deserved a lot of credit on that one – so did the guy who called in, for that matter – but Laura certainly did her share that day, and more.

Of course, she’s also the type of person who would, when the weather called for it, cross-country ski into work, so it’s not a huge surprise that she would put in the work.

When she made public appearances she used to say how she kept a note on her desk that said, “it’s about people.” Which is true; I can see the note in my mind even now. It sounds obvious, but you can see and hear which hosts take that idea seriously and which don’t. If a show has one guest who believes one thing bickering with a guest who believes something else, it’s not about people. Laura pushed for real conversations, person to person, even if one of the persons in that conversation was a governor, or a senator, or a candidate for president.

It used to be that presidential candidates would come on her show and talk for an hour, sometimes multiple times, because people listened to the show, but also it would make them better candidates. Today candidates either don’t have that kind of time or they don’t make the time for it – there’s a lot of risk in answering questions for an hour from a intelligent, seasoned host who takes calls from the audience. And it’s frustrating, because it’s better for everyone when that exchange takes place.

It’s about people for her off the air too. The first time I saw her, back when I was a part-time intern, she was leaving the building for a bike ride in an enormous floppy hat and sunglasses. I figured that was about as close as I was going to get to her. Laura has a family and hobbies and friends and a full life outside of her job. She’s a busy and well known person, after all! But not so: even when I was a part-timer, nobody to write home about, and she was already a radio rock star, she would go out of her way to tell the bosses about things she thought I’d done well – a well-written newscast, a fund drive shift where we reached our goal, adding something to the website that made a show better – because she wanted to make sure they knew about it too. She made me banana muffins for my birthday when I was her producer. Really, really good ones! During tougher times, she hand wrote me some of the most thoughtful, caring notes I’ve ever gotten.

My favorite Laura story: when I was on the book tour for DEAD PRESIDENTS, I flew to Washington DC to do an event at Politics and Prose, a fantastic bookstore. It was a night event and I got into town in mid-afternoon, so I figured I’d go slow. I took the Metro train from the airport but instead of riding all the way toward the bookstore’s neighborhood, I decided on a whim to get off near the National Archives. I walked out of the Metro station into the city and hear “Brady?” It was Laura, who was in town showing her kid some of her favorite spots in the city from when she used to work there. We would see each other every day at work and somehow managed to bump into each other hundreds of miles away too.

One more story: in her early days as a newscaster in Washington, Laura was reporting on the previous night’s sports scores, and by her own admission she’s not into sports. So, as she told it, she said on the air how the Washington Capitals hockey team played “the Buffalo Sab-rays.” “And instantly every hockey fan listening called up the station. I spent the next twenty minutes answering the phone saying, ‘I know it’s Sabres, not Sabrays.’ Click. ‘I know it’s Sabres, not Sabrays.’ Click.”

I know Laura as a radio host and as a coworker and as a person and as a friend, and I am grateful for all of it, and for her. And wherever I go I keep an eye out for her; one of these days we might just bump into each other again, after all!