During the 1999 civil war in the Balkans, Serbian forces invaded and tried to seize the territory in Kosovo. NATO and United States forces arrived to protect the refugees moving across the border. Chuck Holmes waited at the border to interview the fleeing refugee families.
“I would tell them I was an American, representing an American newspaper, and they’d throw their arms around me and thank me,” said Holmes. “It was the closest I’d ever had to experiencing what my father had when he liberated countries in World War II.”
Holmes has had several of these experiences throughout his career as a news correspondent, including stints in Chechnya, Israel, and Rwanda.
“I’d always wanted to cover a war growing up. My father had been in a war, and it’s an intense experience. I wanted to see it but not be a combatant,” said Holmes.
Currently Chuck Holmes is Deputy Managing Editor of NPR and he is one of two people who oversee the daily operation of NPR’s D.C. broadcasts. He shares the position and the weekend shifts with his colleague, Gerry Holmes. Not only do Chuck Holmes and Gerry Holmes share the same job, they share the same alma mater, graduating year, and the same last name (albeit without a relation).
Chuck Holmes was born in Tennessee to Pete and Clyta Holmes. His father fought in World War II and later went on to own a small building supply store. His mother was a chemist who unknowingly worked on the Manhattan Project. After a family move to Miami, Holmes enjoyed theater and photography in high school, taking pictures for the newspaper and the yearbook.
Holmes attended The George Washington University because he wanted to be in Washington D.C., a city he considered highly glamorized for journalists following the Watergate scandal. He took introduction to reporting and really liked the writing.
“I found my love for journalism at George Washington University. I took the classes, and at the time the journalism department was only a few real professors, the rest were reporters and editors from the Washington Post,” said Holmes.
He also wrote the occasional op-ed for the Hatchet and had a small regular show on WRGW radio. According to Holmes, programming was very casual during his academic career. He’d sit down in front of a microphone between music shows and was told to “talk about the news” for four minutes.
Following his graduation in 1980, Holmes interned at the Baltimore Sun and a trade magazine for pilots. After a move to Florida, he was hired by Cox Newspapers where he began covering Congress and then the Middle East.
He and his wife Sarah, a speechwriter whom he met and fell in love with after critiquing her work in an op-ed, were living in Jerusalem when Vladimir Putin came to power in the Soviet Union. After a move to Moscow, Holmes began to cover Chenchyna for Cox Newspapers.
Although he loved writing for print sources, he found a new path following the demise of Cox Newspapers.
“I like to think of myself as a newspaper refugee. I love print, but newspapers left me as they declined,” said Holmes.
Five years after Cox Newspapers closed, he was scooped up by NPR where he has worked different positions.
He started his latest position as deputy managing editor last September, just as NPR moved their offices and did an extensive reorganization. The new NPR headquarters, according to Holmes, was designed to encourage constant communication on the organization’s three different platforms: shows, newscasts, and blogging.
Daily, Holmes runs meetings between representatives of each desk and show. Desks are certain areas covered by reporters, such as news, entertainment, and business. According to Holmes, more focus is being put on multi-media projects especially on NPR’s website, including podcasts, sound packages, and slideshows.
Now married almost 22 years, Holmes and his wife currently reside in Bethesda with their 18-year-old daughter Katie. In his free time, Holmes is an avid runner and has completed several Washington marathons.
Covering topics from foreign wars to the streets of D.C., Holmes has had a long and varied career in journalism. He has met powerful people, traveled, and witnessed some of the most significant current events of his lifetime. All of his accomplishments, however, stem from his passion for journalism, which he tries to share with young students.
Holmes explained his perspective on his long journalism career by comparing it to another passion.
“I’ve learned to think of my career as a marathon,” he said, “Not a sprint.”