Walter Ray Watson (Journalist)

Last Updated on 8 months by General

Walter Ray Watson, a seasoned journalist and senior producer for NPR News, has been an integral part of the NPR team since 1987, contributing to the network’s rich tapestry of reporting and storytelling.

His journey at NPR began as a production assistant on “Weekend Edition Sunday,” a program hosted by distinguished figures like Susan Stamberg and Liane Hansen. Over the years, Walter’s dedication and talent have shone through in various roles and projects.

One of his notable contributions is the music series “American Anthem.” In 2018, Walter played a pivotal role in producing stories for the special series “1968: How We Got Here,” shedding light on a pivotal year in history. Additionally, he was instrumental in the launch of the “Code Switch” podcast, which delves into important conversations about race and identity.

During his tenure at “Weekend Edition Sunday,” Walter produced a diverse range of stories. These included coverage of organ donor transplants in Pittsburgh, the Apollo Theatre’s threatened closure in Harlem, and numerous music features. His signature performance-chats with artists like Joni Mitchell, Charles Lloyd, and Awadagin Pratt became a highlight of the Sunday morning program. He also embarked on journeys like the one to Topeka, Kansas, with education correspondent Claudio Sanchez to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. As a reporter, he profiled notable figures such as jazz musician Jason Moran, writer Junot Diaz, dancer-choreographer Bebe Miller, and Brazilian singer Milton Nascimento.

Walter’s leadership extended to serving as the supervising senior producer of the weekend broadcasts of “All Things Considered” for over eight years. During this time, he oversaw the network’s coverage of significant events like the impeachment vote of President Clinton, the contested 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Notably, Walter Ray Watson’s work in South Africa with NPR correspondent Renee Montagne, two years after the election of Nelson Mandela, remains a source of pride. He also contributed to stories covering the recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina and the immediate impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Walter’s excellence in journalism has been recognized with prestigious awards. He was honored with a George Foster Peabody Award in 2013 for his work with host-correspondent Michele Norris on “The Race Card Project,” an original storytelling endeavor focusing on race and identity. The following year, he received an award for the best radio feature from the National Association of Black Journalists for his role in uncovering and restoring a rare 1913 silent feature film starring Bert Williams and a large African American cast.

Originally hailing from Louisiana, Walter Ray Watson grew up in Chicago. Prior to joining NPR, he served as a staff writer for “The New Pittsburgh Courier,” a bi-weekly African American newspaper. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Walter’s extensive and impactful career in journalism continues to shape and enrich the landscape of news and storytelling at NPR.

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