Longtime Austin newsroom leader Debbie Hiott was named KUT and KUTX general manager last month. While she’s still settling into the job, we wanted to share a few insights with you on her background and initial goals for the station.
Follow Debbie on Twitter @dhiott
What inspired you to pursue a career in journalism?
My father worked as a reporter at the Rockingham, N.C. newspaper when he was in high school, and he was an avid news junkie. By the time he retired from the Air Force in San Antonio, we were a two-newspaper family, so I already had an appreciation for the role that journalism had in helping to inform the community. As an undergraduate at Southwest Texas State, I originally considered an education degree, but after only a couple weeks at the student newspaper I was hooked on journalism. I liked being able to ask questions to understand how things work, and also to tell stories that mattered to people. And I always got a thrill when something I reported about resulted in change for the better.
What attracted you to KUT and KUTX?
After 28 years at the “Austin American-Statesman,” I felt like I needed a new challenge. But I also wanted to do something that gave me a similar sense of mission and accomplishment. I have always admired KUT’s news operation, and its ability to tell stories beyond the daily news. At the same time, I’ve been a big fan of the live music scene in Austin since I was in college, and spent a lot of my leisure time in my 20s and 30s (before having two kids on top of a demanding career cut into my fun time) at shows. I like that KUTX has a goal not just of playing Austin music but also of supporting the Austin music scene – the musicians, the venues, and all the folks who struggle to preserve and grow this thing that makes Austin so special. All of that made me want to be a part of what’s next at KUT and KUTX.
You’ve only been here a couple of weeks, but could you share any or your goals for the stations?
I’m concerned about the future of local news in the face of cuts in some of the established media in our region, and I think KUT has the opportunity to step into that breach and make sure there’s continued deep coverage in the areas that matter. I anticipate some growth in our newsroom as we look at what we should be covering. We also want to make sure that members of the community get our coverage in all the ways they want it, so we will be working to make sure our online offerings are as robust and accessible as the news we provide over the airwaves. On the KUTX side, I know we are continuing to increase our audience, and I want to do everything possible to help with that, including looking at ways we can open up that Austin music experience to more people outside of our transmission area through our digital efforts.
Care to share anything personal, such as children or hobbies?
I have a daughter named Violet, 10, and a son named Jasper, 8. They don’t leave much time for hobbies these days. But I love spending time with them and with my husband Jason, who is a software engineer, and our dog, Raven, and cat, Cheeto. It’s a fun crew, and they keep me happy and grounded.