The women of “Texas Standard” offer an inside look at running a radio show.
By Sierra Rozen, Photos by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUT Public Radio
In a small room located inside the Belo Center for New Media, the hustle and bustle of the surrounding newsroom is cut off. Six computer monitors dominate the space; notes clutter the walls with a stretching exercise pamphlet pinned to the wall among show notes. There are multiple clocks set up around the room, counting down the time to air.
There’s a screen that keeps track of when the show is live and when prerecorded bits come in. Next to it, a computer records the entire show as it plays through so the track can be edited and uploaded for the podcast later that day.
Behind a wall of glass, the intro music to “Texas Standard” plays. Executive Producer Rhonda Fanning leans into the control panel and says, “Your mic is open,” and the show begins. To the outside eye, it’s organized chaos. For the women of “Texas Standard,” it’s just an average Wednesday.
“Texas Standard” is a daily radio show produced in collaboration with KUT 90.5 FM , airing at 10 a.m. and rerunning at 8 p.m. An accompanying podcast lets listeners go back and listen to aired shows.
Though based out of the capital, the show aims to capture the diversity of all corners of Texas, broadcasting on more than 25 public stations. The staff looks for stories that occur all over the state and even if it doesn’t seem to apply to Texas, they find the angle.
“You can always find a Texas connection,” says reporter and producer Alexandra Hart.
This diversity doesn’t stop at their storytelling. Since launching on March 2, 2015, “Texas Standard” has grown immensely, now featuring an almost entirely female staff.
“It’s a great feeling,” Managing Producer Laura Rice says. “[An all-women staff] wasn’t necessarily an intentional thing. We didn’t say we’re going to put together a women’s show, it was just the thing that happened.”
Planned or not, it’s clear that the employees pride themselves on this feat and there’s a genuine sense of camaraderie among the women, the staff constantly praising each other’s stories.
When asked about their favorite stories that they’ve reported on, Hart, Jill Ament and Joy Diaz (all reporters and producers for the show) all chimed in with favorite stories written by other women.
“My favorite was the marching band,” Ament mentions to Hart when she was stuck on picking a story.
“Texas Standard” is the epitome of a balance between fun stories and hard-hitting investigations. While some of their favorites included heartwarming stories like Hart’s on an East Texas marching band, Diaz pointed to the stories that enact policy change.
“We focused on people leaving the foster-care system without documentation, without birth certificates or state issued IDs or drivers licenses. The legislature passed one bill that would make it easier for children that were exiting the system, and it was super cool because we interviewed one of the lawmakers sponsoring the bill,” Diaz says.
For the women of “Texas Standard,” mentorship is a key value, and so is setting an example within its company culture. Rice, who is currently on maternity leave, and Diaz both expressed the importance of demonstrating that women don’t have to sacrifice their career for starting a family. Instead, they lead by example that women can have children and still thrive in their jobs.
“It’s great that we’re able to balance maternity leave and leading the Texas Standard because it’s something that I want,” Rice says.
Unlike newsrooms that might unintentionally foster isolation, “Texas Standard” values collaboration over competition. In the floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks their meeting table sit two full-grown orchids tended to by Diaz and technical producer Casey Cheek. The team even has their own mascot in the form of a dog who belongs to Cheek, pictured above their planning whiteboard.
“I feel like all of us here really respect each other,” Hart says. “We have a good rapport with each other. We’re not competing.”
As they celebrate their five-year anniversary, and through their shared love of Texas news and dedication to producing such a time-consuming show, it’s clear that “Texas Standard” is here to stay.