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Local news radio could fill gap created by declining newspapers, WBHM executive director says

Chuck Holmes, who moved to Alabama from National Public Radio in Washington, D.C., in 2017 to become executive director of Birmingham’s public radio station, said at Alabama Media Professionals’ July 11 meeting he is testing a theory that local radio can use print-journalism principles to fill the gap created by the decline of local newspapers.

Holmes said Birmingham is an excellent place to test the theory, which is working in larger markets such as Dallas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. He also said he wanted to move to a community where he felt he could make an impact. The public radio landscape in Alabama, however, is not without challenges.

“It’s tough in Birmingham because we’re in a red state,” Holmes said. “There’s a perception, which I’m ready to counter, that NPR is liberal. I don’t believe NPR is liberal. If you listen to NPR, you hear a lot of Republican and conservative voices. I do believe we ask tough questions.”

With increased community support from businesses, organizations and individuals, Holmes said, WBHM can provide robust, reliable coverage of local issues that are not receiving adequate attention. “Having been a lifelong journalist, a lifelong newsroom manager, I am now spending 90% of my time trying to raise money and trying to convince people in Birmingham, Alabama, that we are a worthy nonprofit that deserves their support.”

Holmes also said WBHM is working to reflect and lead conversations that should be happening in central Alabama communities – and to cover neighborhoods that have been neglected in the past.

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