Barton (Chip) Grabow, Jr.
Senior Supervisory Producer
National Public Radio News “Day to Day” Program
In the fast-paced world of NPR news reporting, someone must coordinate coverage of breaking news in a timely fashion. For the venerable news program, Day to Day, that someone is Chip Grabow. With an impressive 15-year career at NPR, Chip is currently Senior Supervisory Producer. Since 2004, he has been responsible for leading daily editorial meetings; developing content to drive traffic to the NPR website; and assessing audience trends in order to achieve growth. Day to Day is one of the few national NPR programs with the distinction of originating from the West Coast.
With unprecedented news stories developing at ever-increasing speed and the need to stay competitive in a 24/7 news delivery environment, Chip provides insight into his communications demands. Interestingly, internal communications is a subject that greatly impacts the productivity of his work.
Chip joined IABC/LA in spring 2008 with an interest in sharing his broadcast journalism experience with others. He also wants to explore new applications for his business communications work. Read more about Chip below.
“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
Three words that best describe me:
Dedicated. Reliable. Irreverent.
When I’m not working, you could find me:
Chasing after my 18-month-old daughter!
MY LIFE IN COMMUNICATIONS
The biggest communications challenge I have faced in my current (or previous) role was…
…responding quickly to breaking news events. In my role as Senior Producer of an NPR News program, coordinating coverage of breaking news events in a timely fashion is critical, but must be done in a way that ensures the accuracy of our reporting. It’s like a quarterback calling plays on the football field—everyone on the team knows the code names for plays and what they need to do when they hear the call.
My favorite communications memory is…
…any time I get to work with a colleague or friend whose communication is so developed that we can do it in shorthand, and it’s all we need to do to get the job done. [I prefer] collegial communications working at maximum efficiency.
Can you provide an example?
In April 2005, when the Vatican announced it had chosen a new pontiff, news broke right as we were going on the air at 9AM Pacific Time. While we were expecting such an announcement that day, we weren’t expecting it at that time! Conferring with my editorial counterpart, we came up with a game plan in record time, which was simply to get our NPR correspondent covering the Vatican to go on air as soon as we could reach him by phone. Within five minutes we had NPR’s Eric Weiner on the air reporting from Rome. To achieve that quick response, the communications process has to work in shorthand mode. I love when everything lines up the way it should even when using minimal communications. Of course, it only works with co-workers who all speak the same shorthand language.
The most important communications or professional lesson I’ve learned is…
…being clear in communicating a message and then confirming a message has been communicated successfully is better than assuming the message has been received.
Care to elaborate?
While speaking “shorthand” with colleagues can be satisfying, there are times when using minimal communications can result in serious complications. On my program, we interview between 3-8 people a day. Each interview needs an editor or producer to write an introduction, and questions for our host to pose to the guest. If an assignment to write an interview script fails to be assigned, and the host is ready to go in the studio to conduct the interview, that causes major delays in the pre-production process. It complicates our day considerably. So, the biggest lesson I’ve drawn from those occasions is to be absolutely clear in the assignment process. This will minimize any surprises that may come up. We try to drill that message to the staff, and it’s resulted in more efficient mornings of pre-production.
A book, conference, or resource that I really find useful and recommend to other communicators is…
Print: The New Yorker
Radio program (other than Day to Day): This American Life
TV documentary: PBS’ Frontline
“IF YOU ASKED ME…”
What advice would you give to the newly elected President on communicating to the American public about the economy?
Make it plain and simple—don’t try to intellectualize merely to impress. Just be clear, concise, and plainspoken. People will get behind you, no matter how tough the news.
My questions for fellow communication professionals:
I’d like to know other IABC members’ thoughts about multimedia on the Internet, as a way to communicate client messages. Do they see a benefit in audio podcasts? What has proven to be most effective medium for them? (Contact Chip email@example.com)
OH, HOW FAR I’VE COME…
2003 – Present
Senior Supervisory Producer, NPR News, Day to Day Program
Lead Producer, NPR News, Day to Day Program
1995 – 2003
Producer, NPR News, Morning Edition
Associate Producer/Director, NPR News, Morning Edition
1994 – 1995
Associate Producer, NPR News, All Things Considered
1991 – 1994
Associate Producer, Monitor Radio & The Monitor Channel
Broadcast Media Awards
Best Radio Feature: New York International Radio Festival, Documentary on The Beat Generation
George Foster Peabody Institutional Award: NPR’s Morning Edition
Alfred I. duPont: Columbia Silver Baton, coverage of 9/11 and war in Afghanistan