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04 Nov 2011

Kym Grinnage: The Top Man at the Top Station

Camisha L. Jones, Urban Views Weekly

Growing up, the main aspiration for his life was simple: to venture outside of the project housing community where he lived. Today, Grinnage is indeed far from where he started out.

A New York native, Grinnage and his wife moved to Richmond in 1990 after deciding that the rising cost of private school for their two daughters was a sign that they should relocate. Without knowing anyone in the south, Grinnage, who was a CBS-TV sales account executive at the time, began applying for positions.

He visited several different stations but the warmth he felt in Richmond at NBC12 won him over. He remembers the day he interviewed clearly, stating, "When I walked in the door here at NBC12, the receptionist said to me, 'You must be Kym Grinnage. Everybody's waiting to meet you.' And that's when I knew [NBC12 was] the place where I wanted to work."

He was hired as an account executive then later appointed as National Sales Manager, Local Sales Manager, and General Sales Manager before taking on his current VP position.

His career began with missing a deadline. While studying at St. John's University, Grinnage learned about an internship at NBC in New York. He recalls the opportunity vividly: "You worked at NBC in your senior year from September to December and you got 18 credits and you never showed up on campus. You just worked full-time at NBC. It couldn't be a better internship that you could possibly have." There was just one problem. He had missed the application deadline and when he sought help from the professor responsible for sending in candidate names, he was told it was too late. He shared the situation with his mother. Her response spurred him to act. "If you're gonna' let people tell you what you can and can't do," she said, "You're probably gonna miss out on a lot of things in life." The next day he called NBC. Despite the fact that he was weeks late and all of the candidates had already been interviewed, he was scheduled to meet with Ken Tyler, manager of community relations for WNBC.

The meeting with Tyler is one Grinnage won't soon forget. Grinnage recalls Tyler telling him: "I'm only seeing you now just to let you know why I would not hire you for this internship." Tyler went on to criticize Grinnage for having missed the internship deadline, calling him "irresponsible" and "immature." After Tyler's disparaging words, Grinnage acknowledged his mistake, telling Tyler that he thought he'd be a good fit for the internship but that he understood Tyler's perspective. He picked up his handmade leather bag engraved with his initials and headed towards the door. "Where'd you get that bag?" Tyler asked. Somewhere between witnessing Grinnage's confident response to his criticism and learning that Grinnage could connect him with the maker of that leather bag, Tyler decided to hire Grinnage for the internship program.

"The only thing I [wanted] to do for the rest of my life is wear a t-shirt and jeans and be a camera man," Grinnage says of his mindset when he took the position. Tyler, who became a mentor to Grinnage, had other plans. He arranged the internship so that Grinnage was exposed to every department at the station as well as a few at the network.

Today, Grinnage provides strategic direction for the number one television station in Richmond. "Our job is information and entertainment," he says. Another priority is to be a part of the community in ways that embody their "12 On Your Side" slogan. "When people do not feel that we're a face of the community then I think that we are not achieving our mission," Grinnage remarks.

Often what NBC does in the community is untelevised. For instance, the Call 12 Center is open every day to receive calls from consumers needing help resolving various situations. The station also uses its digital and online presence to better serve its customers. An example is this month's launching of BounceTV (bouncetv.com), a new digital channel geared towards African Americans, to be carried by Raycom Media, NBC12's managing company.

While Grinnage admits to watching a lot of TV himself, it is usually for the purpose of researching new and interesting programming. What he enjoys most is golf, personal development books and movies.

Family means a lot to Grinnage too. After 30 years of marriage, he still considers his wife, Kyle, to be his best friend. Outside of business, his mother, Audrey, is his most valued mentor. Many of his extended family members have moved to Richmond from New York over the years and he cherishes their presence.

He tears up talking about his daughters, Kendra (23) and Kerri (26). "This job and everything [my wife and I] have materially would mean nothing if my girls were not on their way to being successful," he says reflecting on seeing them in careers that they enjoy.

"My success is not because of everything I've done," says Grinnage. He gives credit to the many wise, generous and dedicated people who have been a part of his life's journey, both on and off the job. "That I could start here 21 years ago and then be able to work with and lead people that I really like a lot. That's probably the most important thing."