Gratitude to Alabama Public Radio’s Listeners

World Radio Day seemed an appropriate time to write about the importance of radio broadcasting in my life and the lives of my colleagues and students. I’m particularly grateful to the longtime listeners of Alabama Public Radio. They’ve been on my mind recently, and I’ll explain why.

This semester, I’ve played a small role in reviving daily newscasts on KWTS-FM, the student radio station at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, Texas. We’ve just finished our second week of newscasts, and our students are doing a tremendous job.

Things haven’t been without hiccups, of course. That’s normal when you can’t predict all of the challenges you might face when reading news live on the air. Sometimes you don’t know what needs fixing until it happens, and broadcasters simply have to accept that as a reality. Also, it takes time for individuals to find their voices – sometimes literally. Student newscasters will never be as smooth and polished on Day 1 as they are on Day 100. Experience is a linear process, and there’s no way around it.

That’s why Alabama Public Radio has been on my mind. APR hired me as a news reporter and anchor early in my sophomore year at The University of Alabama – an exceedingly fortunate stroke of luck. That set my professional trajectory and laid the foundation for my return as news director five years later.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. My radio skills were rough, at best. I didn’t have a style. My accent was still heavy. My pacing was patchy. My newswriting needed some work – a lot, actually. But APR’s listeners were exceptionally patient. I was just the latest in a long list of student journalists who had come through that newsroom, and many more came after me. One of APR’s primary missions was to identify and develop student talent, give them an opportunity to learn and improve, and then send them out into full time employment.

I left APR to pursue other professional and academic opportunities after 10 years as news director, and I’ve had time to reflect on the important role APR’s audience played in allowing the newsroom to serve as an incubator of talent. I worked with fantastic student colleagues during my undergraduate studies, and I hired outstanding student journalists during my professional tenure at APR.

That would not have been possible without radio listeners who took a big picture approach to what we were doing, listeners who allowed students to find their places on a very large stage, listeners who were willing to give budding professionals a chance to experience radio’s magic.

Thank you.

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