Karen Grigsby Bates


Karen Grigsby Bates is a founding member of Code Switch, NPR’s award-winning team that reports on race and identity. A veteran reporter, she covered race for the network for several years, and often provided an in-depth look at communities of color. Bates also oversaw much of Code Switch’s coverage of books by and about people of color, as well as issues of race in the publishing industry. Her work appeared across the network as a correspondent and host for The Tavis Smiley Show, Day to Day (NPR’s midday news show), and on Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Before coming to NPR, Bates was a print journalist. As a correspondent for People Magazine’s West Coast bureau, she covered news and human interest stories, such as the aftermath of the Columbine, CO massacre and West Coast victims of the terrorist hijackings on 9/11. Before that, she worked in the Los Angeles bureau of Time Magazine as a general assignment correspondent. For several years she was a contributing columnist for the Op Ed page of the Los Angeles Times. Bates has reported on everything from the Los Angeles’ Police Dept’s relationship to the city’s communities of color, to high-profile criminal trials to how changing demographics are affecting Southern California’s political, economic and cultural institutions. Bates is especially interested in highlighting the hidden history of race in America and in the intersection of race and culture. She sees value in raising the profile of people who contributed to America’s evolution on race, especially when doing so connects the country’s past history to its present. Some of her award-nominated stories include the centennial of the Tulsa, OK race massacre and a long-format look at the often-unmentioned women who were critical to the success of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wellesley College, where she was a double major in Sociology and Black Studies, and a certificate from the executive management program at Yale University’s School of Organization and Management. Bates is the co-author of a best-selling etiquette book focused through an African American lens (Basic Black: Home Training for Modern Times) and has authored two mystery novels, Plain Brown Wrapper and Chosen People. She is also a contributor to several anthologies of essays. In recent months, Bates has served as a regular guest host for the award-winning public broadcasting radio show and podcast Our Body Politic. She continues to write and report from Los Angeles. Photo by Nina Gregory

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