"So, how about we make a deal?" NPR's Keith Woods Makes Good on a Promise

Oct 8, 2018

When NPR’s Keith Woods stepped up to the podium in Philadelphia last Summer to accept PRNDI’s 2018 Leo C. Lee award, he told everyone in the room about one of the biggest challenges facing him: training for a 100 mile bicycle ride, The Sea Gull Century, swiftly approaching in October.

Woods, who is NPR’s Vice President of Diversity and Training, talked about the challenges of training in his speech that night. How he found it difficult to consistently eat right, put in the miles on his bike and keep his eyes on achieving his fitness goal.  That process became a metaphor in his speech for the kind of work he does in public media: helping build stronger newsrooms through promoting diversity and training.  As Woods closed his speech to the audience gathered for PRNDI’s 2018 annual banquet, he presented those in the room with this challenge:

So how about we make a deal? I’ll say something, and you can hold me accountable. I will be in the best shape of my middle-aged life by the 6th of October. I will ride 100 miles, maybe for the first time. I will get up in the mornings and do crunches, and I’ll do spinning classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I will eat right and sleep better. Hold me accountable.

What are you going to do? Hire somebody? Add some beats? Examine your sourcing? Train your staffs? Email me or call me or text me over the coming months and tell me what you did, and I’ll tell other people your stories, and we’ll learn and grow together and push past good intentions and incremental change and our chronic Tabatas of commitment.

And when we’re done, the kind of training that Leo C. Lee launched 40 years ago will have new meaning. And we in public radio will be in the best shape of our lives.

Keith Woods kept up his end of the bargain. He and his NPR colleague Rolando Arrieta finished the Sea Gull Century this past Saturday. Now what are we doing or going to do as news leaders in public media to help the system reach its potential?