Former Birmingham News reporter, Chanda Temple, continues to share people’s stories as the Director of Public Relations at The Birmingham Public Library and as the author of her inspirational blog, Chanda Temple Writes. Welcome, Chanda!
Where did you grow up and what brought you to Birmingham?
I’m a native of Huntsville, AL. I moved to Birmingham in 1996 to take a job as a reporter at The Birmingham News. During my 16 years at the paper, I covered night cops, courts, fashion, love stories, murders, fires, weather disasters, elections and the trials of the last two living suspects of the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. I was honored to cover a part of Birmingham’s civil rights history, which remains an important part of the city’s fabric. I left the paper in 2012 to pursue a job in public relations.
Tell us about your work with the library.
I’m currently director of public relations for the Birmingham Public Library. I always say, “I used to cover stories that matter. Now I promote them.” Transitioning to public relations was not difficult. I truly believe that having a journalism background helps when working in public relations as you already know what reporters need to tell your organization’s story — and you have an eye for recognizing what makes a story. As a public relations pro, you are now in a position to help reporters tell an even better story. The other day, a television cameraman was pressed for time and thanked me for helping him find the right people to interview during an event at the Birmingham Public Library. He said, “You made my job a lot easier today. Thank you.”
Tell us about what the library offers that may surprise our readers.
Everyone is always shocked when I tell him how much the Birmingham Public Library has to offer. We are more than just books. We have millions of artifacts and resources in our archives department, free computer classes, databases to help entrepreneurs and those looking for jobs, playtime programs for preschoolers, programs for all ages and more.
How are you plugged into the community outside of your role at the library?
Outside of the library, I like to give back to the community. I’m a member of the Foundation for Progress in Journalism Advisory Board, the YWCA Central Alabama Board of Directors, the Public Relations Society of America, the American Library Association, The Women’s Network in Birmingham, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and the Community Resource Council for Brenda’s Brown Bosom Buddies breast cancer awareness organization.
I’m also a member of my church’s media ministry.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Look people in the eye when you talk to them. Many years ago, a good friend noticed that I did not look people in the eye when I talked to them. He stressed how important that was. Ever since he said that, I made a point to look people straight in the eye during a conversation. It shows you are paying attention to what people are saying.
Whenever I mentor young people or professionals, I encourage them to make eye contact, smile and give a good, firm handshake. They matter in everything you do.
What advice would you give to others?
Follow your passion. It’s what wakes you up in the morning and keeps you going. Oprah Winfrey said that during the last episode of her show in May 2011. I’ve always remembered and embraced that.
What upcoming local event are you most looking forward to?
The library’s Eat Drink Read Write Festival, set for October 3 – 10. It’s the perfect combination of reading, writing and literature. This will be the third year for it. Each night will have a different theme.
I’m truly excited about our finale event, which is Birmingham’s Best Bites. It will feature tasty bites from some of your favorite Birmingham-area restaurants. Food Network Star finalist Martie Duncan is leading the effort on the event.
But what I’m really excited about is working on a cookbook with Martie. Also called Birmingham’s Best Bites, the book has delicious recipes from people’s favorite Birmingham-area restaurants and bars. We have nearly 90 recipes. Plus, the food photos are gorgeous. I think I’ve gained a few pounds just by working on this project because every time you visit a restaurant for photo shoots or research, you can’t resist ordering something. But it’s been so worth it. We are fortunate to live in a city with an award-winning culinary community.
What fashion item would you never be caught dead wearing?
This is tough, but I guess I’d have to say short shorts. I’m too old for that.
Favorite thing to do on a Saturday night?
Have a good meal and hang out with friends or family.
Favorite local restaurant?
Birmingham’s food scene is incredible. Do I have to choose just one? I like them all. Really, I do.
What are you listening to these days?
I like to mix it up. I like pop, R&B, gospel and hip hop. My iPod is all over the place.
What books are you currently reading?
The Alchemist. Birmingham television traffic reporter and comedienne Eunice Elliott was a speaker at several of our libraries earlier this year. During her talk, she discussed the importance of staying positive, following your dreams and reading The Alchemist. I caught her at an empowerment lecture this summer at a different venue. She was still talking about The Alchemist. I figured I better get busy and pick up this book. I’m so glad I did. It’s a game changer in life.
Do you have any personality quirks or irrational fears?
No. You can’t allow fear to take over life. If you do, fear wins.
Name three things you can’t live without (excluding friends, family and God!)…
- My STAY hair spray (It manages the fly-away strands in this Alabama heat.)
- A good, comfortable wedge shoe. (They give me what I need to pull off a good look.)
- My iPhone. (I was Team BlackBerry for so long until I finally saw the light this past spring and switched to an iPhone 5s. My iPhone does so much and keeps me connected.)
Thanks for sharing, Chanda! And a big thanks to Mary Margaret Chambliss Rogoff for today’s beautiful photos: www.marymargaretchambliss.com.