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Journalism professor spending the semester in KUT newsroom

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Qiling Wang

You may have noticed a new voice covering Austin for KUT in recent weeks. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a professor in the Moody College School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin, is a reporter-in-residence in our news department during the fall semester.

Through her residency, Maggie is reporting stories for KUT on a variety of topics, including voter registration, immigration, Austin’s demographics and more. She’s also gaining hands-on experience in a public media newsroom and developing new skills to take back to the classroom to better prepare students for a career in digital journalism.

In turn, she’s bringing a fresh perspective to the newsroom based on her nearly 20 years as a print and television journalist before joining academia.

The reporter-in-residence program was conceived by Emily Donahue, KUT’s director of journalism sustainability and impact, and made possible, in part, by the director of School of Journalism, R.B. Brenner.

According to Donahue, our audience will benefit from a new perspective on our community and from an experienced educator excited to find, tell and share compelling stories of Austin.

In fact, Maggie is part of the team working on slices of life in East Austin, “On My Block: Voices from 12th and Chicon.”

“Talking to everyday women and men, and finding themes and nuggets is a luxury for journalists,” says Rivas-Rodriguez. “I’m so glad we’re taking our time to get the lay of the land and cultivating sources, rather than parachuting in and getting anything we can get. I’ve met some remarkable people in East Austin who have made me think hard about ethics, housing, demographics and religion. We discuss these issues in the newsroom and rethink things all the time, exhilarating!”

In addition to reporting on various Austin-centric topics, Maggie is working on a longer-term project that’s personal – one that been marinating for 24 years.

“In 1992, my father and I traveled to Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands where he was stationed during WWII. He took a micro-cassette recorder with him and recorded himself retracing his steps,” she explains. “I feel as if those tapes have just been waiting for me to work at KUT this semester.”

She’s producing and editing the story to air on KUT on Veterans Day so stay tuned.

Uncovering veteran stories is nothing new to Maggie. As part of her research at the School of Journalism, she created the Voces Oral History Project, which documents and increases awareness of the contributions of U.S. Latinos and Latinas of the WWII, Korean War and Vietnam generations. She was recently feted by the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

She’s only halfway through her KUT residency, but already she feels refreshed and excited about returning to the classroom.

“Taking a step back and into the newsroom has given me a new perspective. I hope my journalism faculty colleagues will get a chance to go back to newsrooms, too. I know they would get as much out of it as I am.

“Beyond that, I intend to continue producing audio. Not sure what that will look like. But I’ve been bit.”

Listen to her stories for KUT.