As NPR's Southern Bureau chief, Russell Lewis covers issues and people of the Southeast for NPR — from Florida to Virginia to Texas, including West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma. His work brings context and dimension to issues ranging from immigration, transportation, and oil and gas drilling for NPR listeners across the nation and around the world.
In addition to developing and expanding NPR's coverage of the region, Lewis assigns and edits stories from station-based reporters and freelancers that air on NPR's news programs, working closely with local correspondents and public radio stations. He spent a year in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, coordinating NPR's coverage of the massive rebuilding effort and the reverberations of the storm in local communities. He joined NPR in 2006 and is based in Birmingham, Alabama.
Lewis is also a key member of NPR's 'Go Team' — a small group of experienced NPR producers and reporters who respond to major disasters worldwide. He is often among the first on the scene for NPR — both reporting from these sites as well as managing the logistics of bringing additional NPR reporters into disaster areas that lack functioning transportation systems, basic utilities, food, water, and security.
He was dispatched to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, where he helped manage a group of NPR journalists. He created an overland supply line for the NPR team between the Dominican Republic and Haiti and brought listeners stories about the slow pace of supply distribution because of border bottlenecks. In Japan in 2011, he was quickly on the scene after the earthquake and tsunami to help coordinate NPR's intensive coverage. In 2013, he was on the ground overseeing NPR's reporting in the Philippines in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan. Covering the impact of the massive earthquake in Nepal in 2015, he field-produced NPR's coverage and also reported how a lack of coordination by the government and aid workers slowed response. Lewis managed NPR's on-the-ground coverage in 2015 of the terrorist attacks in Paris, France, and reported from Brussels, Belgium. He returned to Brussels in 2016 after the terrorist bombings at the airport and metro station. He helped field-produce NPR's coverage and also reported several stories about the response and recovery. In 2018, he went to Indonesia to field-produce and edit coverage following the earthquake and tsunami in Palu.
Lewis also oversees NPR's sports coverage. He spent six weeks in Brazil in 2014 handling logistics and reporting on the World Cup. In 2015, he did the same in Canada for the Women's World Cup. In 2016, Lewis reported and oversaw NPR's team of journalists at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. He also led NPR's coverage from Pyeongchang, South Korea, at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
In 2010, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University awarded him a prestigious Ochberg Fellowship. The Fellowship is designed to improve reporting on violence, conflict, and tragedy. Lewis has continued his work with the Dart Center and has trained reporters on behalf of the organization in Trinidad and Tobago, the Cayman Islands, and Puerto Rico.
A graduate of the University of Florida, Lewis began his public radio career in 1992 as reporter and executive producer at NPR member station WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. He also spent time at WSVH in Savannah, Georgia, and was Statehouse Bureau Chief at Kansas Public Radio. For six years he worked at KPBS in San Diego as a senior editor and reporter. He also was a talk show host and assistant news director at WGCU in Fort Myers, Florida.
When he's not busy at work, Lewis can be found being creative in the kitchen or outside refereeing soccer games.
Forecasters are looking to next-generation technologies to get the word out to the public about tornado dangers. Programmable weather radios and apps that use GPS data are giving alerts on much smaller geographical areas where bad weather is expected.