Faces Of NPR: Rob Byers

Apr 11, 2017

Faces Of NPR is a weekly feature that showcases the people behind NPR, from the voices you hear every day on the radio to the ones who work outside of the recording studio. You'll find out about what they do and what they're inspired by on the daily. This week's post features Production Specialist, Rob Byers.

The Basics:

Name: Rob Byers

Twitter Handle: @RobByers1

Job Title: Production Specialist, NPR Training

Where You're From: Newport News, Virginia

An Inside Look:

You're the Production Specialist for NPR's Training Team. What does that mean?

I spend much of my time talking about production fundamentals and best practices, and I help producers and reporters use production tools to tell better stories. That could mean I help a podcast with their production workflow, prepare a new reporter for working in the field, or provide critical feedback on the way a story is produced. The wonderful thing is that I get to do this at NPR and throughout the public radio system!

How did you get started here? Or what advice do you have for someone who wants a job like yours?

I started my career in public radio as an NPR audio engineer in the early 2000s. That gave me a fantastic foundation to go on to Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) / American Public Media, where I managed operations teams for shows like Marketplace and Performance Today. Throughout all of those experiences, there was a continual need to use fundamentals and hone best practices with my colleagues. That's experience I call on every day in this job.

What's your favorite #nprlife moment?

Simply walking into this building every day is a pretty wonderful thing. The public radio system, in its many shapes, is essential to our country's well-being. To play a role in that work is incredibly rewarding.

What are some of the coolest things you've worked on?

March's Story Lab Workshop was a wonderful experience. We brought in 10 teams of 2-3 producers and worked with them on everything from shaping their story ideas to their digital presence to project workflow. It was a huge lift for the team and all of our partners, but the feedback we've received has been fantastic. And, the Ear Training Guide for Audio Producers was a fun success that enabled us to reach out to other audio professionals and get their input on common audio problems. It's an example of something the training team is really good at — providing information to producers and journalists that speaks directly to them, that they can put to use immediately.

What is your favorite sound?

The sound of a killer jazz group. Three, four, five musicians locking together and creating music that lives and breathes in the moment — that is my favorite sound.

What's on your desk?

Not much! I do my best to keep it clear... which (mostly) happens. When I left MPR, my engineering colleagues created a *very fake* loudness meter out of an old Neve VU meter and presented it to me as a going-away gift. You may not know what either of those things are, but just know that it was very silly, very creative, and absolutely perfect.

I also have a block of wood on my desk that came from the floor of Studio 4A in the old 635 Massachusetts Avenue building. I was lucky to be one of the few audio engineers who got to work in that studio, and I have many, many fond memories from my time there. I was still at MPR when NPR moved to the new building, but when I heard that 635 had finally been torn down, I will admit that it definitely tugged at my heartstrings. So to receive a small piece of 4A was a fantastic gift in many ways.

Favorite places in the city?

Rock Creek Park. There are some wonderfully quiet corners of the park when I need to reboot. And, it's a fantastic route in and out of the city, especially on the weekends on the bike!

First thing you do when you get to the office?

This is nerdy, but I organize my task list. I'm a big Omnifocus fan, and everything I do — everything — is tracked in that program. Don't get me started or we'll be here all day.

What do you love about public radio?

What's not to love? The mission, the commitment to journalism and ethics, the ability to tell a story like no one else can. And of course the services that local stations provide to their communities, whether it's reporting a story through a local lens or supporting the state's emergency broadcast network infrastructure.

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