KUT to Deepen Coverage of Hays and Williamson Counties
Report for America Journalists to Cover Growth, Changing Demographics
KUT News is expanding reporting on Hays and Williamson counties thanks to a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities through its reporting corps.
As Austin grows, so do surrounding communities such as Round Rock, Cedar Park, Buda and Dripping Springs. This suburban growth has driven the need for improved transportation and water infrastructure, as well as more schools and increased law enforcement – community needs some local governments have strained to meet.
Journalists Allyson Ortegon and Riane Roldan join the KUT newsroom this month covering Williamson and Hays counties respectively.
“We’ve been looking to expand our coverage of these booming suburbs and better serve our audience outside of Austin — providing coverage of local government and issues in the suburbs that we didn’t have capacity for,” said KUT Projects Editor Matt Largey. “This includes covering changing demographics in these suburban communities.”
Ortegon is a 2020 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin where she reported across radio, television and print media for student publications including The Daily Texan and Texas Student Television. She hails from Cibolo, Texas, which is between New Braunfels and San Antonio.
She is an alumna of the NPR Next-Generation Radio Project, hosted by NPR and KUT, a weeklong “boot camp” where students work alongside professional journalists to hone their multimedia storytelling skills. She covered the Legislature for the Texas Newsroom, with stories running on various NPR affiliate stations around the state. She also interned at the Texas Tribune where she worked in audience engagement.
“I am excited to engage with new communities and learn about how their businesses, lifestyles, families, cultures and environments both relate to and differ from those around them,” says Ortegon, who is an avid reader and soccer player in her spare time. “I am eager to share these stories of the people in Williamson County, and create relationships of trust and understanding in my reporting.”
Born to Cuban and Chilean families, Roldan grew up in Florida and earned her degree in journalism from Emerson College last month.
She spent last summer in Texas interning with the Texas Tribune and stuck around in the fall to work as a state desk reporter at the Austin American-Statesman.
“I knew that whatever opportunity I took next had to involve me finding my way back to Texas somehow,” Roldan explains. “I’m fascinated by Texas and its history. I love the ways it reminds me of my hometown and the ways in which it’s entirely different. I’ve made incredible friends, and I love the pride of people who were born and raised here. I’m still learning so much every day, but ultimately this place has completely captured my imagination and I’m so glad to be back.”
She says she looks forward to meeting the people who live and work in Hays County and discovering unexpected stories.
“I'm excited for the chance to dive into a beat over the period of a few years. There’s a different understanding of a beat that comes with time, and so many of the reporters I look up to have spent years, or even decades with their beats. I’m excited to have a jumping-off point in this sense.”
When asked to share what she does for fun, Roldan points to salsa dancing. “It’s something I grew up with in a big Cuban family, but I've enjoyed learning it more formally now that I'm older,” she explains.
“When I lived in Austin last year, I took classes at Esquina Tango and frequented the different salsa socials around town on weeknights. There was always a live band, and I loved dancing with people of all ages and skill levels.”
A cohort of 225 Report for America journalists were placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 46 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico this year. This is the first time for KUT to participate.