How Brady Carlson Manages Workflow as ATC Host

Feb 25, 2014

New Hampshire Public Radio's All Things Considered host, Brady Carlson.
Credit Chris Saunders

Member station journalists gave us a look into how they balance their broadcast and digital workflows as their jobs evolve. We've heard from several member station reporters, digital editors and news directors discuss on air and online workflow as part of the NPR Knight training webinars. Now, we want to get to know how local hosts of the two flagship NPR news shows, Morning Edition and All Things Considered, balance their broadcast and digital workflows. 

We caught up with Brady Carlson, All Things Considered host at NHPR. We also spoke with Erin O'Toole, Morning Edition host at KUNC, in Greeley, Colorado.

What time do you get in to the office?
I get in at 9am. We have our morning news meeting at 9:30am and everyone in news is a part of it. The meeting lasts 15 to 20 minutes.

That’s on the early side for an ATC host, no?
Yes, but the daily meetings are extremely helpful to me as a host. Sometimes, you have no time to prepare when news breaks, so the only way we’re able to pull off those interviews is that there are ongoing conversations about what each of us are doing. We're not simply relying on the news, we're also relying on each other.
Before I started attending the morning meetings, someone would have a great idea and I wouldn't know about it until lunch time. In one morning meeting, everyone could figure out what needed to be covered that day and determine the best method for covering it.
Our coverage plans that come out of these meetings also involve social media. For example, if I know we had a reporter on a high profile story, some of my colleagues and I are able to retweet them and that’s useful for me and for my newscast.

Are your daily morning meetings a recent development?
We had meetings, but they were not as formalized and scheduled like the ones we have now. The daily meetings are very philosophical in a way. It shows the approach that I think we're trying to take now, an all hands on deck approach, even if it's simply to know what's going on. That's really at the core at the type of newsroom we're trying to be now.

Walk me through a day
-9:00am I start parsing together elements of the news for the day.
-9:30am News meeting
-10am I go to the gym. I marinate. I think through the Q&As I’ll be doing throughout the day. I watch the morning shows.
-11am I’m re-editing stuff, putting weather forecasts together and doing some voice tracking.
-12pm First newscast. Between newscasts, I put together Q&As and write new newscasts. I work on a weekly feature about food.
-2pm I start prepping for ATC. I start writing my billboard and put together different transitions and forward promotions. Then that's when I put together what the digital side of ATC looks like.  
I think the key to it is that there's a framework in place in advance and it's much easier to update and change the one you have in place instead of starting from scratch.  
-6pm I leave. I'm on the air at 7, but that's voice-tracked.

How many tweets do you do in an afternoon?
I’ll do about 8-10 tweets in all. I will do the show as a whole earlier in the afternoon and then I'll do some for upcoming segments. Then along with those pre-scheduled tweets, there are live tweets as well. So if there's a story about a slide show, or if there's an ATC story that reminds me of a New Hampshire story, I'll let people know on Twitter.

Are you curating a two-channel experience?
Yes. It kind of happened by accident, because I had my social media clients up in the studio and people I'm friends with found it amusing that they could talk to me while I was on the air. There's this underground conversation that's taking place while I'm having this public conversation.

I started to think about what the functions of this conversation might be. One might be someone who also happens to be listening to the broadcast at the same time and have their social media clients up at the same time. They could have their two channels on at the same time. While the audience tweets during live broadcasts of The Walking Dead or Breaking Bad (before it ended), they could also do that during All Things Considered.

Do you write blog posts?
Not as much. In theory, I write a few blog posts for the food segment.

What's your biggest challenge in a given day?
As far as digital goes, it would be finding time in the broadcast clock to mention more of what's going on digitally. I'm able to mention the Facebook thing a couple of times a night, and Twitter, but I'm not able to go beyond that. I would love to be able to say more about what we have on social media. So ideally, you could build up a community, digitally, and then pose questions for discussion or consideration. You kick that ball off on the air, toss it to the web and then it turns back into something either that night or later. You have a piece of tape from someone you talked to on Facebook or Twitter.

What's the most important thing you do each day?
Write good newscasts, which is also copy that gets repurposed digitally. People count on having that unadorned useful piece of news. It's a big part of my day and it's a really important one. It's also something that can be really under appreciated. It's a crucial service we provide and one that I'm doing with some seriousness and success. People's time is valuable and I want to make the most of it.

Any tips for hosts wanting to do more digitally?
I would advise people to not aim too high at first. Don't expect to put 25 tweets out on day two and then have it feel like a chore. Try doing one live tweet about a story you really enjoy, or try tweeting about the weather or just say hi. Once that becomes so routine that you don't need to think about it, you can think about the next steps.   

You can follow Brady at:
@BradyCarlson
@NHPRATC
NHPR's ATC on Facebook