Naked City

Making the KUT

KUT's attempt at organizing a local news department took its first step toward fruition with the hiring of Emily Donahue as news director last month. Currently the producer of Marketplace Morning Report in Los Angeles, Donahue has worked for NBC, New England's Cable News Network, Boston's WCVB, and The Christian Science Monitor's "Monitor Radio" and Internet news services. She will start work Dec. 5, and KUT's local news programming is expected to begin some time in early 2002.

"To be part of establishing from scratch a public radio news department in a city that doesn't have one, the lure was irresistible," Donahue said. She is a complete newcomer to Austin, she admits: "The biggest challenge is going to be learning the lay of the land. ... Learning how to serve listeners locally and to know enough so that I can lead a news team in this endeavor isn't going to happen overnight."

KUT General Manager J. Stewart Vanderwilt said the station was attracted to Donahue -- who responded to a nationwide search -- by "the combination of experience she has working in all journalistic mediums, specifically now as producer of a nationally syndicated public radio news program." (Marketplace is a business news program that was briefly carried by KUT but hasn't been heard here for several years now.) KUT plans to "think beyond traditional radio news," he adds. "We have a rather ambitious plan to make KUT a model of radio journalism."

The KUT news team -- whose reports will be inserted between broadcasts of NPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered -- could certainly do just that if it sticks to the principles outlined in its "Statement of Goals and Values" (www.kut.org/site/PageServer?pagename=newsmission). Especially heartening is a promise that KUT's journalists will avoid "a focus on daily events to the exclusion of longer-term issues about which citizens must make community decisions," and that "KUT reporters will not be assigned to cover daily crime, violence, family disputes, and routine traffic accidents -- sometimes referred to by journalists as 'police blotter' stories -- unless they are of unquestioned impact and significance to the community."

In other KUT news, the station reports its latest fundraising drive was a resounding success. Though the length of the pledge drive was cut by 25% (down to eight days), listeners pledged $640,457, well over the stated $500,000 goal.

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