Meet Helen Chickering, BPR Morning Host and Reporter
For the latest profile in the "Meet Team BPR" series, get to know Helen Chickering. She's the steady voice on the air early each weekday and a big fan of health and science reporting, stone stacking, and local music.
Team BPR: Tell us about yourself.
Helen: I'm not a native, but I've called North Carolina home for a long time—first Charlotte, then Chapel Hill, and finally landing in Asheville. If you listen closely, you can probably detect a bit of Texas in my voice. I was born in Houston and spent my childhood in a small town just west of the big city.
My first job out of college was at the NBC affiliate in Jackson, MS, where I was hired as a reporter and weekend weather anchor. Back then, it was not uncommon for TV reporters to pull weather double duty. I'm not sure why I wasn't fired after the first week, and I will be forever grateful to the WLBT news team who helped me cut my journalistic teeth. It's also where I fell in love with the health and science beat, which is what brought me to North Carolina.
Team BPR: What attracts you to work in public media and for Blue Ridge Public Radio?
Helen: Hands down, it's the people. The public radio reporters I came across over the years, in most cases while competing with them to get a question answered during a press conference, were among the most interesting, well-informed, and dedicated journalists I'd ever met. They occupied this unique space between TV and newspaper, covering angles I hadn't thought of and topics I often had never heard of. It's why I became a listener.
The move to BPR—full credit goes to my kids! They heard about an opening for an announcer on the radio and encouraged me to apply. I remember crouching in the closet, covered in pillows while waiting for the dogs to stop barking so I could record a demo on my cell phone. I was surprised and thrilled when I got offered the job as an afternoon announcer. Panic quickly set in when I realized I had no idea how to decipher the NPR show clocks, much less operate a radio board. Needless to say, my forever grateful list also includes the BPR staff members who taught me everything. That was 2014, and as I look around at all the talented, dedicated and amazing people I call coworkers today, I’m still pinching myself.
Team BPR: When you're not behind the mic, what do you enjoy doing?
Helen: Pretty much anything that involves a glue gun, piddling around in the garden (not to be confused with gardening), paddleboarding, stone stacking, farmer’s market strolls and most of all, just hanging out with my family — lately we’ve been trying out that sport that begins with a “p” and takes place on a tennis court.
Team BPR: What are you currently listening to?
Helen: When it comes to music, I'm a mix-tape kind of listener, thanks to my brother who used to make them for me way back when. The latest mix features Red Garland, Christian McBride, Flyte, and The Raconteurs. On my go-to mix: Mike Martinez/Beekeepers, Juan Holladay, Gary Jules, and Nina Simone.