Anyone watching local TV news or even listening to much terrestrial radio these days would be likely to know WALA’s iconic news anchor Bob Grip will soon be calling it quits after 34 years at the station.
As he prepares for retirement, Grip is looking back at his time on the air, but also looking forward to a different kind of life.
“I’m generally just ready to not worry about a schedule,” Grip said, noting he plans to do some traveling and consulting once he “fades to black.” His exact retirement date hasn’t been determined, he said, but he’s feeling like the holidays might be a good time to make the break.
He’s already gotten a taste of a less hectic schedule, cutting back to anchoring only the 9 p.m. broadcast and also whittling back his teaching schedule at Spring Hill College, where he’s taught broadcast journalism since the mid-‘80s.
Grip got his start in broadcast in 1970 on a 500-watt radio station. He said that experience taught him to think on his feet and spurred his fascination with broadcast. Asked to look back at his career decades later, Grip doesn’t focus on one big story or any awards; rather, he says he judges his success based upon what he brought to his viewers.
“The most important thing is something that came from my Jesuit training at Boston College, and that’s service,” he said. “Helping people in ways they needed. We shouldn’t be the story. I always tried to keep the focus on the story.”
Even as someone who is a bit of a technology junkie, Grip says the changes brought by the advances in communications over the decades aren’t all positive — just as they aren’t all negative. He cited the ability for reporters to “go live” from almost anywhere with something as small as a cell phone as a real positive for the profession. But at the same time, the immediacy of a 24-hour news cycle can create inaccuracies and other problems.
“There still needs to be a chance for discernment. Is this really news? There’s no time for reflection. The editorial process is a great thing. We need somebody to reflect on whether this is news or not,” he said.
Grip says he hopes to occasionally be back on the air — perhaps even during election coverage, a particular specialty of his. But he first intends to follow one very simple rule.
“Some folks who are already retired have given me some advice: Don’t make plans for at least six months,” he said, laughing.
The Soul of Mobile can now be found at 92.5 FM — the latest venture from the folks at Dot Com Plus Media.
Program Director Tim Camp said the station had a “soft opening” on the airwaves last week and will kick off full steam Nov. 19 with a morning show hosted by WABB alumnus Hot Ron Anthony.
Camp said the station is R&B and soul from the ‘60s through the ‘90s and a “smattering” of current music that “sounds old school.” It can be picked up at 92.5, or on 92.1 HD3. He said the signal for 92.5 can best be heard mostly inside Mobile north of Interstate 10 and up toward Saraland and Creola.
“It’ll be a fun station. A good party station,” he said. “I hope it’s a station people put on when they want to be in a better mood.”