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Linda Holmes ’97: Pop Culture Happy Hour

  • Linda Holmes ’97 and Trevor Noah talk during NPR's Weekend in Washington event in 2015.

“Welcome to Pop Culture Happy Hour, NPR’s roundtable podcast about what we are watching, reading, and listening to.

I’m Linda Holmes, the editor of NPR’s pop culture and entertainment blog, Monkey See. This week, we’ll look at the new podcast S-Town and we’ll visit the off-beat protagonist of the British comedy Chewing Gum.”

The voice of Linda Holmes ’97 is relaxed and easy—she’s well practiced, having worked as a radio host for nearly 10 years. As she writes on thisislindaholmes.com, she likes to talk. “I will talk your ear off about things I love.”

Holmes also loves to write, read, watch movies and television, listen to podcasts, and think about culture and society. She gets to do it all in her dream job at NPR, where she is tasked with bringing awareness of new, and sometimes obscure, media titles to her audience.

“Some of what I do is straight-up criticism—what’s good, what’s bad about a particular show or concept—but I also do cultural analysis and consider how something contributes to society, and where we are as a culture. That’s what I find really interesting.”

Culture gives her a way to gain insight into how people think, she says. “Finding out the role culture plays for someone, the chord it strikes, gives a glimpse into what is important to that person.”

Holmes, who is originally from Wilmington, Delaware, decided to enroll in law school after taking a course in constitutional law at Oberlin. “It was the academic side of it that drew me to law school, although I had no idea what kind of law I would practice.”

Encouraged by a favorite Oberlin professor, she chose Lewis  &  Clark, sight unseen. “His daughter went to Lewis  &  Clark. He knew me really well and felt it would also be a good place for me,” Holmes said. “I did a lot of research on the school and there were many things that appealed to me.”

With a healthy financial aid package providing additional encouragement, she drove out to Portland with her mom. “Seeing the landscape go from brown in the northeastern part of Oregon to the green of the Gorge, I was just struck by the scenery. I was really happy with my decision, and I enjoyed my time in law school very much.”

Holmes practiced law for several years, but she continued to keep up with television shows, movies, books, blogs, and social media. One of the blogs she enjoyed most was Television Without Pity.

“It was fun, and funny, and I thought that I would love to do something like that,” she recalls. Holmes got up the nerve to submit a writing sample, which the blog owners accepted, and she started writing television recaps for shows like The Amazing Race. Eventually, she was doing freelance work for outlets like MSNBC and TV Guide.

“Writing took over my life slowly,” Holmes says. “I wrote for several years while still working as an attorney. But in 2007, I left my law job and moved to New York to be an editor for Television Without Pity.”

She had been there for about a year when a friend at NPR told her about a pop culture blog project the network wanted to undertake. “It sounded really interesting so I wrote up a proposal, and they hired me.”

Holmes says it can be a challenge to keep up on what’s happening, and admits that she doesn’t try to follow it all. “Culture is everywhere and you can never know about everything. There will always be stuff you’ve missed,” she says. “People focus on what’s important to them and that’s also my approach. I read and watch the things I think I’m going to learn the most from. The other stuff will be covered by lots of other writers out there.”

She says that her years in law were valuable. “I learned so much. I learned to write well, and I especially learned to write persuasively. Even when I’m writing about TV, I’m still making arguments and using logic skills that I developed during my time in law school.”

Holmes isn’t planning to give up her dream job any time soon. “I really love what I do. I love writing. I love the podcast and live events and interviewing people. I want to keep doing it. My current ambition is to do more of what I’m doing, for more people, and to learn to do it even better.”

You can follow Holmes at npr.org/sections/monkeysee and on Twitter (@NPRmonkeysee), her social media platform of choice.

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