In Rural Texas, Radio Partners with Print

Aug 24, 2014

Cindy Roller at work.

KETR-FM is a university licensee in Commerce, TX located in Hunt County about 65 miles northeast of Dallas. The 100,000-watt station serves eight counties but has just one full-time news reporter and host. So the station has recruited staffers at nearby newspapers to help fill out local newscasts. 

“Our staff is short,” said KETR General Manager Jerrod Knight. “Having active newsroom participants with a home base in the various communities we serve is one of the best ways, and at times, the only way, to get at that information.”

The daily Greenville Herald-Banner prints in the county seat, about 15 miles southwest of Commerce. Brad Kellar, longtime government and public safety reporter, files five voicers a week for KETR. After putting the paper to bed, Kellar records his cuts on a portable device and ships them to the station’s Dropbox account. The following morning, KETR staff clean up the raw audio and include Kellar’s report in the local Morning Edition newscast.

Just a few miles east of Commerce lies little Delta County, recently estimated by the Bureau of labor Statistics as having the lowest average weekly wage in the U.S. ($378). A weekly newspaper, the Cooper Review, is the county’s only news organization. Cindy Roller, the paper’s lone editorial staffer, files Delta County reports weekly, using Dropbox like Kellar. 

Together, Kellar and Roller and KETR news director Mark Haslett provide listeners with a variety of voices in the local newscast.

Roller often provides community news, although occasionally her offerings include major drug busts or other hard news. Kellar gives the station a reliable supply of municipal and county government reporting that the station wouldn’t be able to get otherwise.

“I love having a newscast that’s just Brad, Cindy and me,” Haslett said. “It’s satisfying to present a five-minute newscast with only local reporters – even though KETR has just one full-timer in news. And it’s not just the stories. It’s the sense of place that we convey by having well-known locals like Cindy and Brad side-by-side with Renee Montagne and Robert Siegel. That mix of trustworthy national broadcasters and friendly neighbors is the sound of KETR.”

KETR’s print partners also contribute to the digital product. Kellar’s stories are posted to the station’s website by either Haslett or one of KETR’s student part-timers.

The Cooper Review doesn’t have a website. So, Roller publishes her stories to KETR.org and posts links on the paper’s Facebook page, creating a kind of  blog for the Cooper Review. Roller is also a professional photographer, and her photo galleries are consistently among the most-viewed posts at KETR.org.

“We might be public radio, but we’re also in rural Texas, and few things light up our web hits like cute kid pics from a rodeo or county fair,” Haslett said. “And football is always a winner.”