Fulbright Scholar to tackle journalism in Bulgaria

As a public radio producer, Graham “GG” Griffith has spent his career uplifting journalism in the United States.

As a Fulbright Scholar, he’ll spend the next year helping to elevate journalism in Eastern Europe. 

“It’s a privilege. It’s terrifying and exciting,” said Griffith, who is working toward a master’s degree in Leadership Studies from the University of Southern Maine.  

Griffith’s journalism career began in the 1990s when he got a temp job at NPR in Washington, D.C., doing production for affiliated daily news talk programs. From there he moved to another station, then helped launch a public radio station in Rhode Island. In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, he produced special coverage at a public news station in Boston  — a program that would become popular, long-running public radio show “On Point.”

In 2008 he helped launch and became executive producer of “The Takeaway,” a public radio morning news program and website that went on to launch the careers of many top public radio producers and personalities. He’s also worked on a number of podcasts and radio show launches and was the University of Michigan’s Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism from 2009 to 2011. 

Graham “GG” Griffith

“It just felt like my responsibility and my calling to do this kind of work,” he said. “It’s a field that has gone through some real challenges with digital disruption. I’ve tried to be a step ahead of the change and help colleagues weather that change and actually be ahead of that change. A big part of what I do is try to help journalists be listener and audience centered. I find that if we do that effectively we aren’t sitting feeling sorry for ourselves about how the world is changing.”

A year after moving to Portland, Maine, Griffith discovered USM’s Leadership program.

“So much of my work requires me to think about issues of how do we lead within newsrooms, how do we lead teams. So a lot of my work starts out with people thinking about programming, but the work is a lot about group dynamics and figuring out how do we bring people together from different backgrounds and get them to work together for the community at large and communities at large,” he said. “I thought this is an interesting way to think more broadly about the work I do.”

Griffith started the program in January. He’d often had a foot in academia — working with scholars, participating in teaching and research fellowships, running a listening lab at Wesleyan University — but it had been decades since he’d been a student himself.

“It’s a really interesting way for me to both learn new things and learn ways to apply the lessons to the work I do,” he said. 

But before he could even finish the semester, Griffith received some exciting news: The Fulbright Program had accepted an application he’d submitted in 2022. He was named a Fulbright Scholar.  

Griffith will spend nine months in Bulgaria working with scholars at The Center for the Study of Democracy in Sofia, helping to engage with local media, counter strategic corruption and disinformation, and raise the profile of English-language reporting on issues like foreign authoritarian influence.  

“I feel incredibly honored, and I feel a lot of responsibility,” Griffith said. “It’s a great privilege to get to do something like this.”

He leaves in September. 

Griffith will pause his USM studies while in Bulgaria, but he plans to return as soon as his Fulbright time ends. 

“It will be here when I get back. I will miss it while I’m gone.”

In the meantime, he will carry his USM Leadership lessons with him. 

“I’m really glad to have taken the classes that I’m taking now. . . I’m excited I have some of these new challenges now to apply to the work,” he said.