Debbie Hiott started at the Austin American-Statesman as an intern in 1990 while she was still a student at what was then Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). After 28 years in reporting and editing jobs at the Statesman, Hiott has taken over as general manager of KUT and KUTX.
Hiott told KUT that although this is her first job in radio, she is committed to the stations' missions.
In an age of dwindling resources for local news, she said, she wants to expand KUT's local news operation.
"I think that all of us have to think about, as a community, how are we going to make sure we preserve that really important resource of independent, local reporting?" she said.
Hiott said she believes strengthening KUTX will help maintain and protect the Austin music scene.
"That whole music scene could be threatened by all of the changing forces of Austin – the growth, the economy, affordability," she said. "I love that KUTX has a very strong mission in support of that scene."
Listen to Hiott's interview with KUT to hear her thoughts about reaching audiences traditionally underserved by public radio and why she says she will fiercely protect the KUT newsroom's editorial independence:
On why newsroom diversity is critical in reaching and serving more diverse audiences:
The reason that's important for good journalism is that it allows you to do better journalism if you have people who better reflect all parts of your community. Then you have a better opportunity of getting in and understanding how to cover your community.
On the necessity of editorial independence:
The editorial independence of the station is really important. That needs to be something that we do a better job of explaining to the public how that works. I know that there are some public radio stations with policies that they have posted online for their listeners that really clarify – Here's the role of the university as the licensee, and here's the independent role of the newsroom in determining the actual news coverage, and the station management in determining how the station goes forward on things. I think that's something that we could do a better job of explaining to the public.
I will tell you, though, that editorial independence is really important to me, personally. I mean, my credibility of 28 years as a respected journalist in this community is something that I would not give up by going into a situation where I felt like someone else would be making those sorts of calls.