KUT, Austin's NPR station, is making another high-profile personnel addition 15 months after disturbing accusations were reported by an industry magazine. In September 2018, KUT came under fire following an in-depth investigation into the station's newsroom culture, including accusations that white journalists were promoted over people of color and reports of unprofessional behavior inside the Texas Standard, KUT's marquee news show.
Current, a nonprofit news service that covers public media in the U.S., said it interviewed 19 current and former KUT reporters about the "longstanding tensions over opportunities for advancement and the difficult working conditions that current and former newsroom staffers say they endured." It also pulled reports from two consulting firms KUT hired to help streamline operations.
And while the story was largely ignored in Austin, likely because it appeared in a somewhat obscure industry publication, it set in motion a series of moves by the station to diversify its newsroom while creating a culture of accountability and maturity.
In January, KUT and music station KUTX added former Austin American-Statesman editor Debbie Hiott as general manager and executive director of media operations for UT's Moody College of Communication. A seasoned media vet, Hiott brought 26 years of experience to the station, a place Current described as lacking "structure and accountability."
On December 2, the station announced another big addition, bringing Teresa Frontado in to serve at KUT's executive editor. In that role, Frontado will oversee the KUT News local team, Texas Standard, special projects editor, multimedia visuals team, and digital news desk — uniting all arms of the news station for the first time ever.
“Teresa is going to be a dynamic leader for the newsroom as we increase our coverage at KUT,” said Hiott in a release. “She is a proven innovator in digital strategy, a tough journalist, and someone who is well attuned to what it takes to cover a community and state undergoing major growth and demographic change.”
Frontado comes to Austin from Miami, where she was the digital director of WLRN, South Florida Public Media. While there, Frontado "designed and implemented a digital strategy to increase audience engagement on all digital platforms — from web, to app, to social media channels, to podcasts," notes a release.
Before WLRN, she worked for Univision and at the Miami Herald, where she was senior editor of El Nuevo Herald, the Miami Herald Publishing Company’s Spanish-language publication. According to a release, she is fluent in English, Spanish, and French.
Once Frontado begins her tenure on January 1, she will become one of only a handful of Latinx women leading Austin newsrooms, an increasingly critical need as the city — and state — changes.
"As Austin and Texas continue to undergo major demographic and cultural change, it’s important for the journalism we do that we better reflect the community we cover, both internally and in the coverage we provide," says KUT public affairs representative Erin Geisler. "We believe Teresa will be committed to that through her leadership, recruiting, newsroom culture and editorial strategy, as is the rest of the KUT newsroom."