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Meet Laura Lee, BPR's News Director

News Director Laura Lee in front of a snowy background and evergreen trees with the aurora borealis of the Northern Lights behind her
Courtesy of Laura Lee
Laura recently traveled to Sweden and saw the Northern Nights.

Get to know BPR News Director Laura Lee, a longtime journalist, Swiftie, and "true believer in the need for the press as the fourth estate and a pillar of our democratic system." This profile is the latest in the Meet Team BPR series.

Team BPR: Tell us about yourself, Laura.

Laura Lee: I’m BPR’s news director. I’m a North Carolina native, originally from a small town near Charlotte. My family has deep roots in the area, so I am happy to be back here. My mom grew up in Boone, so as a kid, I often visited my grandparents in the mountains.

Before I became a journalist, I had a range of jobs from event planner to grant administrator and attorney to civics instructor. I’m a double Tar Heel (BA and JD) so I bleed light blue.

My first audio job was at NPR’s All Things Considered where I was a temporary booker. I still believe it is one of the best training jobs in journalism because you have to cold call people every day and convince them to get on the air- all on a very quick deadline. I stayed at NPR and worked on Talk of the Nation before moving back to North Carolina in 2013 to run The State of Things, the midday talk show from WUNC.

Weird factoid: I love those head-in-hole cutouts where you take a picture of yourself and will make my friends do it no matter how much they protest!

Team BPR: What attracts you to work in public media and for Blue Ridge Public Radio?

Laura Lee: I went back to school for journalism (at Maryland, don’t tell my Tar Heel friends) with the specific goal of working in public media. I was drawn to the variety of storytelling, and I especially love the medium. Radio goes places with people - it is an earworm. I appreciate that so many listeners consider the NPR voices they heard every day trusted friends.

I worked a bit with Blue Ridge Public Radio when it aired The State of Things, so when the opportunity to become the interim news director opened up, I thought it would be a great fit. At the time, I didn’t intend to apply for the permanent role, but as I learned about all the great plans BPR had for the future of local news, I changed my mind.

I don’t like to dwell on the demise of local news, but it is a reality. At BPR, we have the chance to really fill some gaps that are crucial for an informed audience. There is a lot of discussion of news deserts, but I am more concerned with what fills the space. In the absence of reliable, credible news sources, people often turn to sources of mis- and dis-information. I’m a cynic on many topics, but I am a true believer in the need for the press as the fourth estate and a pillar of our democratic system.

There are so many important and relevant happenings at the local level that truly affect people’s day-to-day lives. BPR News fills an essential responsibility by ensuring listeners and readers get local news and information they can trust.

Last but not least, I love working at BPR because of the people. I am so incredibly lucky to be part of a news team of smart, talented and quick journalists. Even more than the jobs they do, they are hilariously funny, kind and generous... which just makes working together so much more fun. I believe in the mission of what we do, but I also belly laugh every single day. There is no better combination.

Team BPR: When you’re not leading the news team, what do you enjoy doing?

Laura Lee: It is cliché, but I love to travel. Recently, I visited a friend Colombia which was beautiful. I also went to Sweden to see the Northern Lights – the display was just magical.

I also like to bike, although I haven’t done it as much lately. And I am what I call a sporadic yogi. I’m an extroverted extrovert so I also just really enjoy hanging out with friends and family.

Team BPR: What are you currently listening to or reading?

Laura Lee: All the awesome content by the BPR news team!

I’m 1000% a Swiftie, so I am always listening to Taylor Swift. Sometimes I try to branch out musically, but I always return to TS.

I jump around on podcasts, but Up First and Consider This are staples. I just finished listening to The Retrievals which is about the Yale fertility clinic and a nurse who stole medications from patients there. It was distressing but interesting.

I have a bad habit of trying to read multiple books at the same time. Currently I’m re-reading Ross Gay’s Book of Delights, inspired by seeing him at Citizen Vinyl a few weeks ago. I’m also reading Text Me When You Get Home, a book about modern female friendships. I have several stacks of books around my house that I hope to get to someday soon!

BPR's first Director of Audience, Erin joined the station in January 2020, having previously worked in digital marketing at NTEN in Portland, OR, marketing and communications at NPR in Washington, DC, and fundraising at Nashville Public Radio in Nashville, TN. Her introduction to public radio was listening to The Diane Rehm Show on WFAE in Charlotte, NC, on her father’s car radio in middle school. She's now a proud monthly Sustainer of several public radio stations.
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