On the radio
KUAR’s Malcolm Glover tunes in to news events in Arkansas and around the world
Thespian, world traveler, humanitarian, Clinton School graduate, Ph.D. student, poet, storyteller. ... The list of hats Malcolm Glover wears is long and esteemed, but he is best known for his work behind the mic at KUAR as the local news host for National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.
Q: How long have you worked in news radio?
A: I have been with KUAR for almost five years. This was my first major radio job outside of working for my college radio station. Before that, a lot of the work that I did was in the realm of TV or print but not necessarily broadcast radio.
Q: So, you have a background in theater. Is background in performance an asset with a job in radio?
A: I grew up in Maryland, and in high school my health teacher needed guys for a play so he talked me into doing a play. I did [a play] two years in a row, my freshman and sophomore year, and then I didn’t do another play again for a very long time. Just this past fall I ended up doing a play with the Weekend Theater. It was a musical and I had a pretty big role in it. The only reason why that ended up happening was because probably about two years ago of friend of mine, we were on the phone one night and we just started talking about creating a list. Everyone talks about a bucket list, but we wanted to do a 30-by-30 list — 30 things you want to do before you turn 30. I never forgot the feeling of opening night — that adrenaline rush you get from doing a play — so that was one of the things on my list, and I went and tried out. Even though I have a lot of stuff to do with school and work, I’m going to do another play starting [this] week at the Weekend Theater — Southern Cross. I’ll play Dr. King. I would say [a background in performance] helps. … My main background was always in journalism and public speaking, but sometimes public speaking can come off as too preachy, so you need to learn how to be a little bit more conversational. … Really with public radio, it’s more about having a conversation with someone, so you learn different ways of using your voice, different inflections, you’re not really yelling like what happens a lot of times in talk radio. You have some place for your voice to go. A lot of times, especially with guys, we think we have to come off as deep and suave, but instead sometimes you have to use the upper levels of your range. … In some ways it helps with connecting to people because you always want to connect with your audience.
Q: What makes working in radio different from working in other media?
A: I think I’ve become a better storyteller in radio because you don’t have the luxury of video or pictures. We do put stuff online, but because you don’t have that luxury of things that the audience can actually see, you have to kind of transport them there ... through your word choice and your descriptions. ... A lot of times, particularly in broadcast television, it’s all about getting the shot — the image — and making sure that that’s set up right and not necessarily the words that you use. In print you can be extremely wordy, but in radio you have to still be to the point. You learn to be clear, concise and precise but also descriptive.
Q: You’ve worked on the Impact of War series that explores the hardships of veterans of U.S. Armed Forces. What drew you to that topic?
A: My dad is a retired Chief Master Sergeant in the Air Force, so what families in the armed forces go through has always been something that I’m interested in. Luckily for me, when I was born my dad was only stationed in the D.C. metro area. We didn’t have to move a lot like other families do. He retired kind of at the tail end of the first Gulf War, so I didn’t have that stress and strain of wondering if my father was going to come back from war. But it’s a story to tell. And there are so many different stories. ... So when NPR started the Impact of War project and they were looking for journalists in different states to tell the stories ... I thought it would be a great opportunity to tell the stories that don’t often get told because the members of our armed forces are diverse racially and gender-wise. I wanted to make sure that the stories that we tell cover that as well. We’ve been able to tell stories of our women, who in many ways serve on the front lines of combat, even though people still want to say women don’t serve in combat. They do. Also, immigrants who are serving — and are serving with distinction — and some in hopes of getting citizenship, and for some that never happens. There was a diversity of stories out there that I felt I didn’t often hear and so I wanted to make sure that we were able to [tell them].
Q: Talk about a time when you were working at KUAR when a big news story hit and you had to change your plans to cover it.
A: There was this one instance where I was sent to the Capitol to cover one story — it was either a legislative initiative or some sort of major announcement. So I go there with all my equipment. I’m covering it, and I basically have a strict deadline. When it’s over I’m running to my car, getting in and driving off, and I notice this fleet of police cars heading down I-630. It was one of those moments where you’re like “Hmmmmmmmm ... anyway I have stuff to do.” So I’m heading to work and when I get in I’m mentioning to my boss what I noticed, and come to find out it was the incident where state Democratic Party chairman Bill Gwatney was shot and killed at the Democratic Party headquarters. So there was that high-speed chase of the subject. Talk about a time where we had to basically scrap so many of the other things that we were working on. One of my colleagues was sent to the hospital to cover things there, and instead of working on a story that I thought I would be working on that I thought was so important we had to scrap plans for that and basically do this in-depth almost around the clock coverage because we didn’t know if he was going to survive and who was this person [who shot him] … a lot of times you might have an idea (and this is what makes it difficult) of what you’re going to work on that should be the key important thing for the day and then events will change things. I come in on a Saturday thinking I’m only going to work on a story to help out someone for the weekend and Monday morning and all of the sudden a meat plant explodes in South Arkansas. ... It just totally changes things.
Q: You’ve worked on humanitarian projects around the world, how did you end up in Little Rock?
A: I arrived in Little Rock in 2005 as one of the members of the inaugural class of the Clinton School. When I finished up at Florida A&M, I moved to Arkansas to start graduate school for that program. At that point in time, a lot of the folks who were students were professionals returning to an academic setting, and I’d done work in China and Brazil, so I guess they let me sneak in as a youngster. The Clinton School is what brought me to Arkansas, and after finishing up there in 2007, I got this job at KUAR. Over the course of that time, I’ve never stopped travelling and working on issues that I care about. About a year ago, I went to Belize with this doctor in town who was a student in the second class of the Clinton School to help him make an educational video encouraging women in Belize to get annual checkups for their health. … When I was 10 years old, my family took a trip to Canada and it was an amazing experience. Canadians are so kind and generous. But you know how a lot of times in the U.S. we don’t consider Canada like a foreign country or going to Canada like going abroad? It was in 2004 when I went to China, and there was just this feeling of being someplace so totally different and interesting. I got so interested in community development projects abroad, so I’ve always been trying to find ways of continuing to do that work even on the side of what I currently do here. When I was at the Clinton School, I went to Sudan and worked on community development projects in southern Sudan and in a Kakuma refuge camp in northern Kenya. It’s always been something that I’ve really cared about. There is this great big world out there, and I’ve never understood people who don’t want to experience other countries and cultures and meet new people and see how other people live and interact.
Q: You’re from Maryland originally. What was something you found strange about living in the South?
A: I thought it was very fascinating that everyone, particularly in Arkansas, kind of wanted to know my story — not only who I am or where I’m from, but also wanted to know what I think about their state. There was constantly “What do you think about our state?” I don’t know if that’s a product of me being someone new at the Clinton School or just in general. People really want to in some ways know your story or know who you are or where you come from so that they can at least get a sense of you. They’re open to doing that. And that’s a generalization. It’s not true of everyone I met, but it kind of stuck out to me. But I never felt like a fish out of water because my dad is from South Carolina and my mom is from Abilene, Texas. Certain things never seemed foreign to me. You’re far away from home and from a lot of people you know, so you kind of have to start anew and make a name for yourself in some way shape or form all over again ... for some folks that was easier to do, and for some it wasn’t. One thing that I did kind of like is that it seemed to me, after growing up in Maryland and going to school in Florida, at that point in time when I first arrived in 2005 I thought it was so interesting that so many people in Arkansas seem to be so in tune with local and state government and feel like they can actually speak to their legislator or speak to someone and make something happen, whereas sometimes in larger cities on the East Coast, people feel as though they don’t have that power as much outside of an election year.