When Alan Griggs began his career in broadcast journalism, CNN did not exist to provide minute-by-minute news updates. Smart phones had not been developed providing instant information to users. Newspapers were powerful sources of information.
Since 1972 when Griggs first picked up his reporter’s notebook and embarked on a career in communication, the industry has grown and evolved dramatically. Not only has he experienced that evolution firsthand and repeatedly adapted to the latest trends in communication, he has also been a nationally recognized leader in the industry.
Today, Griggs shares his life’s experiences to help prepare future generations of communicators.
Griggs was appointed chair of Lipscomb University’s Department of Communication and Journalism this past summer. He has served as an executive-in-residence at Lipscomb since 2011.
“My passion is to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to have successful careers in the communication field,” said Griggs. “But, the relationships developed between professors and students are what makes this job so rewarding. Our students are very important to me. I want to help them become better students and better people.”
He is also passionate about communication. Griggs said students gravitate toward careers in the industry because “it is exciting and there is something new every day.”
Griggs, news director at Nashville’s NBC affiliate for more than a decade, brings nearly 40 years’ experience in the news and communication industries to the classroom.
“We are fortunate to have a seasoned veteran like Alan Griggs leading our communication and journalism students,” said Norma Burgess, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, which houses the communication and journalism department. “Our students will have the opportunity to learn from a practitioner with a wealth of experience in the communication and journalism industry. He can give them a unique perspective on future careers as journalists and communication professionals.”
In addition to his academic appointment at Lipscomb, Griggs is also a producer, writer and reporter for “Tennessee’s Wild Side,” an outdoor adventure show and a seven-time Emmy Award-winning series, broadcast by all Public Broadcasting System stations in Tennessee and Kentucky. He continues his role as a senior consultant with the Institute for Crisis Management in Louisville, Ky.
Griggs said he believes his background will help him be a more effective instructor and leader of the department.
“I’ve lived what we read about in the text and can provide life experiences and lessons learned from my career in communication and journalism,” he said.
Griggs began his broadcast news and marketing career as a reporter and anchor at WAPI-TV in Birmingham, Ala., before moving to WSMV-TV in Nashville in 1972, where he served as investigative reporter, news manager and news director. As news director, Griggs led a newsroom of more than 80 people for ten years, during which time the station won more national news and reporting awards than any other television station in the country. Under his leadership, the news operation consistently ranked number one in the nation’s 30th largest television market. His television career also included an assignment at WBZ-TV in Boston, where he was an investigative reporter and manager of its investigative unit.
In 1994, Griggs served as communication director for the United States Senate campaign for Congressman Jim Cooper. He later became marketing director for Film House Inc., handling strategic positioning and marketing for television stations around the country. He also served as director of media strategy for United Methodist Communications from 1995-2001.
Griggs has received most of broadcast journalism’s top award including three George Foster Peabody Awards (the broadcast equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize), an Edward R. Murrow Award for broadcast excellence, a Dupont-Columbia citation, a George Polk Award and 10 Emmy Awards among many others.
Griggs has witnessed dramatic technological changes in the communication industry over the past few years.
“There is a new technology developed every day it seems,” said Griggs. “This is the most exciting time to be in this business. Yes, we have seen major changes in the industry, but, we have more opportunities for jobs and to communicate our messages than at any other time in history. Advances in technology have opened up a whole new vista to our students.”
Even so, the principles of good communication remain the same, he said.
“Communication is still very important,” he said. “The basics are still the same, but the platform has changed. We teach convergence. The more our students can learn about all aspects of the field, the better equipped they will be for their careers.”
Griggs said the future is bright for Lipscomb’s communication program, which boasts nearly 120 majors at present and provides meaningful hands-on experience for its students. In addition to classroom instruction, the department also oversees the campus radio station, produces a weekly newscast and runs the Lumination Network, the university’s online news network. Additionally, the department oversees the Mullican Studio, one of the best studios in Nashville, according to Griggs, which serves as a working laboratory for students.
The communication veteran said his goals for the department include continuing to increase the number of students majoring in communication as well as offering a greater variety of topics for classes while integrating the latest technology into the curriculum. He also expects that the department will grow into its own school or college in the future.
A native of Newnan, Ga., Griggs received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Georgia and a Master of Arts from Western Kentucky University. He has served as an adjunct professor at Western Kentucky University and as president of the University of Georgia journalism advisory board.
For more information about Lipscomb University’s Department of Communication & Journalism, visit communication.lipscomb.edu.