Jennifer Stayton | KUT

Host, Morning Edition

Jennifer feels very lucky to have been born and raised in Austin, Texas. An English teacher at her high school, St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, once suggested to the class that they tune in to KUT 90.5 for Paul Ray’s “Twine Time.” She has been a public radio fan ever since.

Her original career path – Psychology – took a back seat to radio after she started volunteering at the Williams College student radio station during her time there.

Jennifer has worked for commercial and public radio stations in news, production, music, and sales in Austin; Syracuse, New York; and Western Massachusetts. She has a Master’s Degree from Syracuse University in Radio-Television-Film. She has won awards from the Syracuse Press Club and Texas Associated Press Broadcasters.

Jennifer has been the local anchor and host of “Morning Edition” on KUT since May, 2004. She is also the co-host of KUT’s “Higher Ed” podcast.

Jennifer serves on the Advisory Committee for KTSW 89.9 at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. She is also a member of the Communication Major Advisory Council for Concordia University in Austin, Texas. She is a member of Women Communicators of Austin and serves as a Mentor in the organization.

Her husband Charles, stepdaughter Samantha, and cats Tidbit and Durango are very patient with her early hours and strange schedule!

Ways to Connect

People in Austin protest racism and police brutality.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Lee esta historia en español. 

2020 has been a difficult and upsetting year so far. The coronavirus pandemicpolice killings of Black people, reckonings with racism and a militantly divided electorate ahead of the presidential election have some people looking for bright spots. But it's possible to go too far in that optimistic search for a little good news.

Daniel Kaluuya portrays Chris Washington in Jordan Peele's 2017 film "Get Out." Baylor University English professor and author Greg Garrett calls it one of the most important films ever made about race in America.
via YouTube

Film has always served as a platform for delving into crucial but difficult topics like racism. In his new book, a Baylor University English professor explores Hollywood’s good, bad and ugly moments when it comes to race.

Capital Metro's Project Connect proposal includes expanded MetroRapid bus services as well as four additional rail lines.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Capital Metro's Project Connect transit expansion plan got some initial OKs this summer. The transit agency's board approved its recommended system plan in June, and the Austin City Council passed a resolution supporting the plan. But this is just the beginning of the line.

Protesters march from Huston-Tillotson to the state Capitol, demanding an end to systemic racism and police violence.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

The recent police killings of Black people, the subsequent protests and the removal of Confederate statues and other symbols have focused attention this summer on systemic racism. What has received less attention is the deep and ongoing trauma that racism has laid in.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X cross paths as the U.S. Senate debated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on March 26, 1964. It was the only time the two men met.
Marion S. Trikosko / Library of Congress

Peniel Joseph writes that Martin Luther King Jr. is "most comfortably portrayed as the nonviolent insider," while Malcolm X "is characterized as a by-any-means-necessary political renegade."

But those familiar biographies, he says, don't capture the nuanced evolutions their activism and politics underwent during their lives.

Central Texas neuropsychotherapist Junice Rockman says establishing new routines and having honest conversations will help children through this challenging and uncertain summer, but tough days will still occur along with good days.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We're embarking on a summer unlike any in decades: A pandemicProtests and demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism. A looming presidential election involving one of the most divisive presidents in history.  

Julia Reihs / KUT


The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that the absence of immunity to COVID-19 does not qualify a voter to use the disability category to request a mail-in ballot during the coronavirus pandemic. The court also says it will not make election officials investigate – or deny – applications to vote by mail.

Confused by the back and forth over mail-in ballots in Texas? OK, let's sort some of that out.

KUT Projects Editor Matt Largey spent the first few months of the pandemic working from his garage outfitted with a desk, mixing board, lamp and coffee maker (plus a washing machine and assorted tools).
Matt Largey / KUT

"I think anybody out there with a second-grader probably feels my pain, but feels her pain, too," KUT Projects Editor Matt Largey says from his home "office."

Texas has deemed construction work as essential and allowed it to continue during the coronavirus pandemic. Austin Public Health requires workers to wear face coverings, practice good hygiene and have their temperature screened daily at constructon sites.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Read this story in English.

Funcionarios de Salud Pública de Austin (APH, en inglés) dicen que todavía están haciendo cálculos, pero hasta ahora sus investigaciones muestran que la construcción se une a las instalaciones de cuidado a largo plazo, de cuidado de salud, la construcción y las tiendas de alimentos como las industrias más afectadas localmente por el COVID-19. 

Texas has deemed construction work as essential and allowed it to continue during the coronavirus pandemic. Austin Public Health requires workers to wear face coverings, practice good hygiene and have their temperature screened daily at constructon sites.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Austin Public Health officials say they’re still crunching the numbers, but their investigations so far show construction joins long-term care facilities, health care and grocery stores as the industries hit hardest locally by COVID-19. The officials say they are still working to determine exactly how many cases have originated and spread from construction sites.

But they claim that number may be hard to pin down.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

At least 335 positive COVID-19 cases and 30 deaths have been reported among staff and residents of Austin-area nursing homes and long-term care facilities. But testing levels remain low, and health officials say they don't have a good estimate of how many tests would be needed for that entire population.

KUT's Digital News Editor Stephanie Federico (along with her assistant editor, Speedy) and KUT/KUTX's Multimedia Producer Gabriel Pérez agree they can still collaborate remotely via Zoom, but nothing replaces working together in person.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

KUT Managing Editor Ben Philpott told the news staff on March 12 almost all of us would be working remotely the next day to practice that routine "just in case."

The next day, the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in Austin, and that trial run became the new normal.

After 16 days in the hospital, 10 of which were spent on a ventilator, Tracey Sengele says she is feeling much better. But she says the experience of having COVID-19 taught her not to take anything for granted.
Courtesy of Tracey Sengele

Tracey Sengele, 44, has asthma, so she didn't think it was all that unusual when she started feeling bad and having breathing problems during the second week of March.

She didn't realize at the time that she was one of Hays County's first cases of COVID-19.

Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that some Texas businesses like restaurants can reopen with limited capacity Friday. Austin Public Health had been thinking about making a similar move – just not so fast.

Education reporter Claire McInerny has been working out of her home office in her bedroom, while news anchor Nadia Hamdan rotates going into the studio.
Courtesy of Claire McInerny and Nadia Hamdan

KUT Managing Editor Ben Philpott told the news staff on March 12 almost all of us would be working remotely the next day to practice that routine "just in case."

The next day, the first positive cases of COVID-19 were reported in Austin, and that trial run became the new normal.

People wear face coverings in Austin to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

UT Austin's COVID-19 Modeling Consortium is analyzing data on a rolling basis to chronicle and predict the spread of the coronavirus. The news so far in the Austin-Round Rock area is pretty good. Adherence to social distancing and other guidelines has reduced transmission by over 90%.

But there is no guarantee that it will continue on this path.

Courtesy of Creative Action

On March 13, Central Texans woke up to the news of the first local confirmed cases of COVID-19. Schools closed. UT Austin shut down. That launched a stretch of tough times for the local economy as many operations either slowed or stopped completely.

No school means no programs for Creative Action, an Austin-based arts education organization. And that means no income and no need for most staff.

A man fishes and a man runs near Mueller Lake Park during the coronavirus pandemic.
Gabriel C. Pérez / KUT

We’ve all heard about the orders to stay home, practice social distancing and frequently wash our hands to help slow the spread of COVID-19. We’ve also probably seen or heard about people who just won't do that.

When the stakes are so high, why don't people follow instructions to help others and themselves?

"People love to watch the car crash" of divisive politics. But Project Divided co-founders Casey Moore and Marley Duchovnay also believe most Americans want similar things and cannot be easily categorized by political labels.
Project Divided

The co-founders of a nonprofit encouraging civil conversation across political divides spent several months in Smithville, Texas to put some of their online work into practice in the community. They say their thinking has shifted about how to help a polarized electorate come together.

Dr. Daina Ramey Berry says she and Dr. Kali Nicole Gross wanted to include the stories of a wide variety of people including artists and entertainers such as Gladys Bentley in their history of the United States.

Maria Stewart, Nannie Helen Burroughs, Belinda Sutton, Aurelia Shines. These people may not be familiar, but two historians hope they will soon become household names.

Dr. Daina Ramey Berry of UT Austin and Dr. Kali Nicole Gross of Rutgers University co-authored a book out this month called A Black Women's History of the United States. They say their goal was not to create the final word on black women's contributions to American history but to provide a starting point for further thought, research and discussion.

Julia Reihs/KUT

A study headed by a professor at UT Austin's McCombs School of Business asked 80 undergraduates to identify which social media news headlines were real and which ones were fake. The person who did the best in detecting fake news got 66% of the headlines correct. That's a D.

Image of William Ross and family courtesy of the Austin History Center

kYmberly Keeton harvested community interest to create Growing Your Roots: The Inaugural African American Genealogy Conference. And she has a perhaps surprising suggestion of where to start exploring family history.

Marley Duchovnay and Casey Moore are from the East Coast. They chose Smithville, Texas, as the home for Project Divided to move outside their comfort zones, just as they encourage people to do in converstions with those holding different political views.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

When two 2019 college grads from the East Coast noticed a lack of important — and civil — conversations about critical issues, they decided to help make those conversations happen. And what better place to do that, they figured, than Texas.

John Langmore

John Langmore was advocating for denser urban development to counteract sprawl when a closer look at some of the impacts of that development got his attention.

As Dr. Ed Burger prepares to leave Southwestern University to become President and Chief Executive Officer of St. David’s Foundation in Austin, Texas, he and KUT's Jennifer Stayton discuss the art of letting go, as they wrap up the KUT podcast "Higher Ed."

A row of houses in Austin.
Jon Shapley for KUT

An affordable housing advocate says the city's rewrite of the land development code would boost affordable housing, but there's room to do more.

The Austin Justice Coalition says the city should be careful not to rewrite the land code in a way that ends up incentivizing displacement.
Julia Reihs / KUT

The grassroots Austin Justice Coalition focuses primarily on criminal justice and related issues, but the impact of development and displacement on communities of color compelled the organization to get involved in the city's rewrite of its land development code.

In the very first episode of KUT's podcast "Higher Ed," Southwestern University President Dr. Ed Burger and KUT's Jennifer Stayton talked about the importance of failure to learning. Has any thinking changed about that concept in the past five years?

Austin Mayor Steve Adler sits in a KUT studio before an interview with KUT's Jennifer Stayton last year.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin City Council is moving closer to a vote on a comprehensive rewrite of the city's land development code, which regulates how we use land and build things in Austin. For years, there have been arguments and misunderstandings about just what those rules would mean for the city.