Troy University alum Micah Grimes was recently named Vice President of Atmosphere News, a new division to the startup streaming service that provides audio-optional content to restaurants, waiting rooms, gyms and more across the country.
Grimes graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast journalism before spending the next several years working in the greater Tampa Bay area in Florida as a web and social media editor for Bay News 9 and later as an assignment editor for WFTS-TV. He moved to New York City in 2013 to serve as the social media editor and eventual editorial manager for social media for ABC News.
In October 2015, he took his talents to NBC where he was named Social Media Editor for NBC Nightly News and in December 2017, he was named Head of Social Media. In that role, he oversaw social efforts with a total of more than 25 million followers across 50-plus social media accounts for dozens of brands and sub-brands, including broadcast and cable TV shows and digital media. He also managed a diverse team of 20 people in New York City, Los Angeles and London who execute a round-the-clock, network-wide business and editorial social media strategy with international stakeholders who include executives, producers, editors, anchors, correspondents and writers.
Though happy in his former role, Grimes said he started thinking earlier this year about trying something new.
“I was really just looking for what I thought would be the right job to advance in my career—something interesting, something challenging,” he said.
Around the same time, Blake Sabatinelli shed his CEO of Newsy title to join Atmosphere as its Chief Operating Officer. The pair initially crossed paths digitally as Grimes was starting his position at WFTS-TV and Sabatinelli was headed elsewhere, but the two kept in contact over the years. When Grimes heard about his new position, and an opening to join Atmosphere, he decided to reach out.
“I thought Blake’s move was interesting, and I started researching what Atmosphere was all about,” he said. “He posted the Vice President role, and I reached out to him and we got on the phone. A few interviews later, I really liked what I saw and heard. I think it’s a smart business model in the media space, in the rapidly growing streaming space. I pulled the trigger and everything came together.”
After living in New York City during the pandemic and other recent personal life changes, leaving behind the big city life became an open possibility for Grimes and his wife of two years, Michelle Weir. Once the new job came through, the pair and their two dogs and one cat packed up and headed for Austin, Texas.
“We always heard a lot of great things about living in Austin, so we decided it was time to get some more space,” he added. “We’d each lived in small apartments in New York for eight or nine years, and while we both loved it, it was time for something new in our lives.”
Grimes has been on the social media track since graduating from TROY. While he enjoyed working with social media, he said he became an “expert” in the field in his early days simply because he grew up with it and knew how it worked, and most others in newsrooms at the time didn’t; but, the grind of the work over the past few years led to a desire to spread his wings in a related but different direction.
In his role as Vice President of News, Grimes has been responsible for building the news department “from the ground up.”
Atmosphere was formed in 2019 by brothers Leo and John Resig as a spinoff from Chive Media Group, whose properties include meme and entertainment website The Chive, but Atmosphere News still needed to be built, organized and launched.
“The people who created (Chive Media Group) decided to try something new and bigger, and that’s when Atmosphere News was born. The question becomes, how do you marry traditional TV with how people consume social media, especially video? When I came in, it was figuring out what the answer to that was going to look like,” Grimes said. “Everything from visual to the actual technology of the product to hiring the team, managing the team, setting editorial vision, all of that. My job was to take the early vision and groundwork, and build on that, which happened over about three and a half months, and now it’s to continue to grow that on the business side, content and content partnerships.
“What makes the job so much fun is you really get to dip your toes into so many different banks, so many aspects of the business. I really enjoyed my career up to now and I’ve learned a lot, but in just these last three months I’ve advanced my career so much in the knowledge of how a lot of different areas work beyond what I’d been able to focus on before. It’s been really gratifying and exciting and there’s much more to come with what we’re doing. We’ve got a lot of good funding and a lot of great executives with a vision to shake up how you can do news, and some other genres.”
Atmosphere News’ goal is to deliver straight news, Grimes said, with text and other visuals that can tell the stories from across the other end of a barroom, but the “audio-optional” streaming content means you should be able to watch it without sound and it will still make sense.
“It’s a business-to-business service, built for businesses. Nothing against direct to consumer, but the purpose of what Atmosphere is built for is for businesses,” Grimes said. “The research shows that the people who watch atmosphere feel like they’re waiting less time in doctors’ offices and they spend more money at bars and restaurants. You can preview it on our website, but it’s built for businesses.”
Though he attended TROY on a football scholarship, Grimes said the broadcast journalism program was another factor in his decision to come to the University.
“The program is fabulous and was really helpful for me to be so hands-on. We could actually do the work, which set me up to succeed and be able to work under deadlines, he said. “When I think about hiring someone out of college and they’re more theory rather than theory plus experience, it makes a difference in my calculation of whether they can come right in and start to contribute or if it’s going to take time to train them.”
A piece of advice Grimes said he would offer to not just media students, but any student is to make connections and give back when you can.
“I don’t want to say it’s who you know, but to an extent that’s what it is, that’s how doors open, especially doors that are hard to get through,” he said. “People tend to appreciate and trust a recommendation from someone they’ve worked with, someone they know, it just gives them an extra piece of assurance. I wouldn’t be where I am without Twitter, it’s kind of a love/hate relationship, but it I opened so many doors by just DM-ing people or tweeting at them, trying to be a part of their newsfeed and giving thoughts on what they’re talking about. Don’t bother them every day, but over time as you establish that relationship, people feel more comfortable than just taking a random cold call. It builds over time like a pyramid, you never know who will be the person you need to turn to that has a connection to someone else.
“Coupled with that, be good to people and give back where you can. If someone reaches out for help, try to help them. You can’t always, but at least afford them a response.”
Atmosphere News officially launched on Sept. 27, and Grimes will undertake a new venture in January when he and Weir welcome their baby.
You can follow Atmosphere News on Twitter at @AtmosphereNews.