One on One: Chuck Holmes and Drew Francis


one-on-one-1Communications and community and where the two intersect was the focus of this installment of One on One, between Chuck Holmes of WBHM and Drew Francis of Red Mountain Theatre.

Chuck Holmes is WBHM’s general manager. He comes to Birmingham’s public radio station from NPR where he was deputy managing editor for NPR News. Prior to this role, Holmes served as supervising senior editor of NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

Holmes began work at NPR in April 2009 as the foreign editor for digital news. Prior to joining NPR, Holmes was foreign editor of Cox Newspapers and earlier served as a foreign correspondent, posted in Jerusalem and Moscow.

Throughout his career, Holmes has gained national recognition for his reporting and editing. His reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Kosovo, and the Rwanda genocide and civil war all earned industry awards. At NPR, he shared an Edward R. Murrow Award for Afghanistan coverage and was part of the digital team when NPR.org earned a Peabody Award for excellence in 2010.

A native of Tennessee and avid marathon runner, Holmes received a B.A. in Journalism from George Washington University.

one-on-one-3Drew Francis is the creative and marketing director for Red Mountain Theatre Company (RMTC). He is responsible for creating and implementing all marketing, public relations, sales strategic plans, annual budgets, advertisements, promotional materials, and media schedules associated with RMTC productions, education opportunities, and conservatory. He holds a Masters in Public Administration with a concentration in non-profit organizations.

Drew served as a creative director for 10 years before coming to RMTC. He currently directs and designs many of RMTC’s promotional materials for print, web, and video.

Part of the conversation between Francis and Holmes touched on the importance of community and the strategies behind serving its needs.

Holmes: “My challenge to the staff has been this: WBHM needs to be reflecting and leading the conversations taking place in Birmingham and across Alabama. If we’re not relevant, we’re not doing it right. That means more local coverage and more engagement in the community with live events, public forums, and more. Working with our news director Gigi Douban, we’ve already begun to refocus the beats of a couple of our reporters, increasing our coverage of disadvantaged communities, and orienting another beat to pay more attention to science and health coverage, which is so relevant to the economy of Birmingham and the quality of public health in Alabama.

“That’s the exciting aspect of my job and the main reason I left NPR to come to Birmingham. WBHM, like Birmingham, has so much potential. The time is right to serve the community in bigger and better ways.

“The station already plays a vital role as an important source of news and cultural programming. That role needs to grow for the station to better fulfill its public-service mission. We’re in a dynamic, rapidly changing city that needs a public radio station that matches the energy and aspirations.”

Francis: “I think when it comes to putting the community first, if we are truly trying to serve the community we need to introduce and expose them to things that they may have never thought they would be interested in. I look at our particular organization as a service, not just a place that we express our thoughts and ideas. In so doing that we build a better arts community that puts its constituents first.

“We want to grow our numbers in some areas to help us to take risks in other offerings. It’s important that we reach every part of Birmingham with some type of arts education for all ages. If you continue to keep the patron, the student, the donor at the center of your arts organization you will see a difference in how the community views your organization.”

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