Apr. 12, 2013  

We The Journalists: Dan Grech

Dan Grech is a multi-platform journalist with more than 15 years of professional experience. He’s currently the radio news director of WLRN-Miami Herald News. Grech has written more than 1,000 articles for such newspapers as The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and The Miami Herald. As if that weren’t enough he’s produced 852 stories for the public radio show Marketplace, and has starred in 12 segments on neuroeconomics for the public television program Nightly Business Report.

By Jason Parsley

Dan-Grech-webUnder Dan Grech’s leadership for the past three years WLRN’s radio news department has won numerous national and statewide awards. In 2000, he contributed to the Miami Herald’s Pulitzer-prize winning coverage of the Elian Gonzalez raid. In 2009, Grech taught the first audio production course ever offered at Princeton University. He’s taught courses in writing, interviewing and radio at the Columbia University School of Journalism, Barry University and the Florida International University.

In 2003, Grech traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, on a Fulbright fellowship and an Inter American Press Association scholarship. There he earned a Masters degree in Spanish-language journalism. In 2012, he earned an MFA in Creative Non-Fiction Writing from Florida International University.

When Grech isn’t running a radio newsroom, he performs in an improv comedy troupe called Chasing Tales and is writing a book recounting his misadventures rebuilding his Miami Beach condo after it was destroyed by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Follow Dan on Twitter.

Most recently Grech has been involved with Hacks/Hackers, a group that strives to bring together the worlds of hackers and journalists in order to help members find inspiration and think in new directions. They have several upcoming events Grech is asking journalists to check out.

Follow them on Twitter.

SPJ SoFla: What’s better, print or radio?

Dan Grech: Radio, of course.

Biggest difference?

Radio journalism is more compressed, more intimate and (I’d argue) better for storytelling. Print is far more versatile — you can tell a wider range of stories using a variety of different forms. Radio is more limited — it really shines in relatively simple narratives with a clear through line and a small cast of characters. To put it another way, radio can do less better.

You once said to “to survive in this new media world, must be expert in at least two mediums.” Does that still hold true? 

When I wrote that half a dozen years ago, I said there are five journalistic mediums — print, audio, video, still photography, interactive graphics — and a modern journalist should be expert in at least two. I think that advice has withstood the test of time (I might change “interactive graphics” to “design/front-end development,” but the idea still holds). It’s impossible to be good at everything, and if you try you’ll be good at nothing.

One piece of advice that I’d add today that I wouldn’t have mentioned then is that every journalist should have a working knowledge of coding and of social media. It’s impossible to be digitally conversant without that.

How has technology changed your job? 

Technology has more than changed my job, it’s changed EVERY job, in every industry, everywhere. Digital technology has disrupted every traditional media form, from books to movies to the good-old newspaper. For radio, the digital disruptor is mobile telephony and Internet-enabled car radios. As mobile and broadband radio takes hold, we’re starting to see big declines in terrestrial radio listenership, and I expect those declines to accelerate. And we’re seeing new digital-only entrants to the radio space, most in music, from Pandora to the Boston Globe’s recently launched commercial internet radio station for alternative rock music called Radio BDC.

Most frustrating part of your job? Most fun?

The part of my job that’s most frustrating is also what makes it most fun: there are no clear-cut answers anymore.

When I started out as News Director at WLRN-Miami Herald News, I started interviewing managers at the best digital newsrooms around the country to get a list of their best practices for running a multi-platform newsroom. I figured I’d just implement those best practices and be done with it. What I quickly learned is that those managers were winging it. All of us, every one, even the best in the business, are still trying to figure digital out. And that’s really exciting. All of us in media right now are co-inventing brand new forms of journalism. This kind of disruptive technological change happens once every few centuries, and we are lucky enough to live in a moment when it’s happening in real time. I’ve read that this period of disruption/creative destruction will last another 10 or so years before this new media matures.

Career highlight? Lowlight?

One of my career highlights just happened last month: WLRN and the Miami Herald hosted a Town Hall event at the Broward Center to talk about the 2013 legislative session in Tallahassee. It was a wonky topic held on a Monday night, and we weren’t sure if we would be able to draw a crowd. We ended up filling the auditorium — more than 600 people showed up! — and a fire marshall even swung by to make sure we weren’t creating a fire hazard. That promotional effort was led by WLRN’s social media editor Danny Rivero and interactive editor Elaine Chen, and they deserve a ton of credit.

One of my favorite aspects of the event was we partnered with a local non-profit, Catalyst Miami, to bring a bus of folks to the town hall. The bus included seniors, low-income folks, students and immigrants, and our Tallahassee bureau chief Gina Jordan rode on the bus to brief the 40 riders on the issues that would be tackled at the town hall. You can hear the group ask their question during the health care discussion of our town hall.

My career lowlight is every time I have to run a correction. I hate being sloppy.

One piece of advice you would give journalism student.

You should start building your Twitter following now. It’s relatively easy to do, and it’s something that every prospective employer will look at before they hire you.


Throughout March, April, May and June, SPJ South Florida Pro will feature Q&As every Friday with South Florida’s most prominent journalists. Want to see someone featured? Want to join SPJ? Email us.

Jason Parsley is chapter president of SPJ South Florida Pro. Follow him on Twitter.

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