Laurel Wamsley headshot

NPR Correspondent Laurel Wamsley developed her love for public radio by listening to WOUB

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Wamsley was a media arts and studies public media fellow and graduated from Ohio University in 2010

ATHENS, OH – Growing up in Athens, Laurel Wamsley has vivid memories of sitting in the back of her parents’ car listening to WOUB FM Radio.

“It’s where my love of NPR began,” said Wamsley. “I listened to WOUB a lot – it was always on in our house. I remember WOUB’s music program Below the Salt, and the songs the host would play each year to mark the beginning of baseball season. I grew up with a strong affinity for WOUB.”

Wamsley took that love for public radio and turned it into her career. She is now the cities correspondent on the national desk at NPR. But her path to this role took Wamsley around the country and eventually back for a stop in Athens at WOUB and Ohio University.

“My career has taken some twists and turns,” said Wamsley.

After graduating from high school, Wamsley attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and majored in history and political science and minored in creative writing. In January of 2007, she got an internship at NPR and moved to Washington D.C. to work on Weekend Edition Saturday. When the internship ended, Wamsley worked as a temporary producer for Morning Edition and Weekend Edition and in 2008, was hired for a one-year job on the NPR elections desk.

“When that job ended,” said Wamsley, “I ended up moving to Austin, Texas, and freelancing. It was during the economic downtown, and there were not many media jobs to be had. That’s when I learned about a public media fellowship graduate program at Ohio University, and I thought I could use the downturn to get a master’s degree.”

As part of the program, she got a small stipend to work at WOUB.

“It was great to be working at the station I listened to as a kid,” said Wamsley. “I filled in a few weekends and holidays doing the morning newscast host job. I worked under Fred Kight (former WOUB assistant news director) in the WOUB newsroom, writing and editing news stories.”

After completing the program, Wamsley moved back to Austin. The economy still wasn’t great for journalists, so she worked in the tech industry for a while as a copywriter. She kept a foot in the audio world and co-founded Austin Listening Lounge, a group for radio producers. In 2012, Wamsley moved to Chicago, and while working in the city’s startup scene, she decided she wanted to try and get back into journalism.

“I had the good fortune to go to the Third Coast Festival, a podcast fest run out of Chicago,” she said. “I realized that these were my people. I felt at home with audio storytelling. I got back in touch with a former colleague at NPR, and a week later I got a phone call that they needed a fill-in producer on the national desk for a couple of months to cover the trials in Baltimore of the officers accused in the death of Freddie Gray. I immediately packed up and moved to D.C.”

Wamsley has been at NPR ever since. She went from associate producer to reporting on the news desk before becoming the cities correspondent a few months ago.

“I’m covering issues that cities are facing around the country, and connecting the dots between them,” said Wamsley. “Right now, I’m doing a lot of stories about housing — looking into the issues cities are facing with building more housing and the roadblocks involved in that.”

“I love what I’m doing and where I’m doing it. And that love for public radio started with WOUB.”