Podcast: Haverhill Native Barr, CEO of Graham Media Group, Becomes Broadcaster of the Year

Emily Barr testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee as the voice of local broadcast television companies. (Courtesy photograph.)

A Haverhill native has been named Broadcasting and Cable’s 2020 Broadcaster of the Year.

Emily Barr, president and CEO of Graham Media Group of Chicago, formally receives the prestigious award Oct. 1 during the Television Bureau of Advertising virtual Alt Forward Conference. Barr was a recent guest on WHAV’s morning program where she spoke of her Haverhill roots.

“I did grow up in Haverhill and I went to Walnut Square Elementary and Whittier Elementary School. Then, I spent a couple of years at Haverhill High School before I went off to boarding school in New Hampshire. That led me to college in Minnesota—to a lovely small school called Carlton College, and I just happened to be majoring in film criticism and film production, and a professor recommended that I consider an internship in a TV station,” she said.

It was in a television newsroom that Barr caught the “broadcasting bug.” WHAV asked Barr if she had opportunities to be in front of the camera.

“You know, I never really did, with a very, very minor exception. When I was an intern in Minneapolis, way back when, they needed somebody to sort of act, if you will, in what we call a news promo, promoting the television station. So, I was picked because I was the young intern, and I got to rip a piece of paper out of the typewriter, and look up at the camera and yell, ‘Sky Cam’s on the way!’ which was the helicopter. And it ran for like a year, so everyone in school made fun of me. And every time I walked around campus, people would yell ‘Sky Cam’s on the way!’” Barr said.

What has become the Graham Media Group was founded in 1949 as a joint venture of the Washington Post and CBS. The Washington Post name was dropped after the newspaper was sold to Jeff Bezos in 2013. The company is named for Katharine Graham, who served as CEO of the Washington Post Company.

Barr, who has led the broadcast division of Graham Holdings since 2012, previously received the Golden Mike Award from the Broadcasters Foundation of America in 2018. In 2016, she was inducted into the 2016 Silver Circle of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Besides television stations, Barr oversees the company’s other offerings such as a social media software company.

“It’s called Social News Desk and what they do is provide software to about 2,500 newsrooms worldwide to help them put news out onto the internet, in a fairly easy fashion. They operate all over the world—primarily in the United States, but also in South America, Canada, Europe, the East, so forth. And then we have seven local television stations that operate in fairly good-sized cities around the country like Houston, Detroit, San Antonio, Orlando, Jacksonville and Roanoke, Va.,” she explained.

During her Haverhill school years, Barr said, she didn’t have a plan to head up a worldwide media company, but, in her words, “it worked out pretty well.”

Besides WHAV.net, WHAV’s “Merrimack Valley Newsmakers” podcasts are available via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, TuneIn and Alexa.

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