by Meridith Levinson

Three Questions with NPR’s Robert Holstein

Jul 01, 20042 mins
IT Leadership

CIO: Who’s your favorite NPR personality?

Robert Holstein: Will Shortz, the puzzle master. He’s on Weekend Edition on Sundays. I also like Don Gonyea, our White House reporter, a lot. I had the opportunity to visit his setup in the press room at the White House and learn a little bit about his job. Following the president carrying all that technology is a challenge for him, so it was an important experience for me in learning about his IT needs.

When a listener hears Linda Gradstein reporting from Jerusalem, how does IT enable the recording, producing, transmitting and broadcasting of her reports?

There’s not one good answer to that question because a lot depends on the type of report, where the reporter is and what equipment they’re using. But in the case of filing a report where Linda blends various audio components together into a mosaic of sound, she makes her recording of the components of the report with a recording device, which could be a minidisk player, a solid state recording device or digital audio tape. Then she downloads this recording onto her PC where she uses software to edit the audio the way she wants the pieces to sound. Then she sends her product back to producers in Washington via e-mail and we FTP those files back to a central control where it gets post-produced.

What are the technical challenges associated with supporting reporters in remote places around the world?

The big issues have to do with support. We have people working in different time zones, which means I need to have coverage 24/7. If someone has a problem with a PC, we need to provide a replacement or a remote support arrangement so they can get a diagnosis. One other challenge is distributing multimegabit-sized software upgrades to people in the field and on the end of a satellite phone who lack fast Internet connections.

Before he joined National Public Radio, Robert Holstein was a self-described “NPR junkie.” The radio network chose Holstein, a 23-year IT veteran who formerly worked as a Capital One Financial business information officer, to be its first-ever CIO in January. CIO recently spoke with Holstein to get the scoop on who his favorite NPR voice is, and the IT involved in radio broadcasting and production around the world.