For our December 2021 newsletter, we interviewed the News Director of Marfa Public Radio (KRTS/KXWT), Carlos Morales.
We talked about building and expanding newsrooms, collaborations, what’s on his turntable right now. Read the interview below.
Lisa: How did you get into public media?
Carlos: I went to journalism school. I didn’t grow up in a public radio household, so it wasn’t part of my upbringing. Public media, and specifically public radio, wasn’t really on my radar until I did an internship with KUT in Austin around 2010. My first full-time gig in public media was at a university licensee in Waco. The more I got involved with the core aspects of what it means to be involved in public media, I felt more and more geared to that.
Lisa: What brought you to Marfa Public Radio?
Carlos: I grew up in El Paso, Texas, not far from Marfa. I became more and more aware of the work that was coming out of the station in Marfa. Looking in from the other corners of Texas, it seemed like [MPR] was doing great work and was a great place to sharpen skills. I was completely blown away by the team at the time, and I’m still blown away by the team that we have here.
Lisa: And now you’re the news director.
Carlos: When I first came on board, my job title was this kind of three-headed mythological beast: I was Morning Edition host, reporter and news director. I had conversations with station leadership and other folks in the first few years and it became abundantly clear that it was not sustainable. With support from station leadership, I was able to carve out a path to break off those extra titles into their own known positions and allow me to focus entirely on news direction, my first time in a managerial role. I’m lucky and very fortunate to be surrounded by the folks that we have here, because they’re all such amazing, talented superstars and they make my job a lot easier.
Lisa: What advice do you have for stations that are considering creating a newsroom or a news program?
Carlos: I think the big thing to understand is to slowly and gently wade into the waters of building out the newsroom. What I mean is, bringing on one reporter to cover the news can sort of feel like turning on the fire hydrant at full blast, because the news doesn’t stop. Have one person focus on a specific type of beat versus general news. The more direction that the radio station is able to carve out with the first position, the better. I think that sets up individual reporters for success. Take the time to carve out what the newsroom’s mission is and then write a mission statement.
Lisa: Could you speak to how collaboration and partnerships have come into play for your station?
Carlos: Partnerships and collaborations are key to not just the success of rural small stations, but newsrooms at large. I think that there can be an old school mentality of hardcore competitiveness and individuality. I think we need to move away from that. It’s an egotistical approach and it’s not about your listeners, your readership or your communities. At that point, it’s about you, which isn’t the purpose of what we’re here to do. Divesting ourselves of that kind of ego is crucial. Wherever you want to drop a pin on a map, collaboration is going to be key.
Lisa: One last question. What’s on your turntable right now?
Carlos: If you walked into my living room right now, you’d find one of two At the Drive In albums on my turntable – Hell Paso or ¡Alfaro Vive, Carajo!
This interview was edited for brevity. Lisa Kettyle worked with Carlos Morales at Marfa Public Radio before joining NFCB.