Alumna takes the reins at KUT & KUTX
Lauren Crider | April 30, 2019
Debbie Hiott knows journalism. In January 2019 she was named the new general manager of KUT and KUTX in Austin, following a 28-year career with the Austin American-Statesman.
Having graduated in 1992 with a bachelor of science in journalism, Hiott began her career with the Statesman as a reporter. She credits her time at Texas State University as the reason she became so enamored with the profession.
“My journalism courses, along with The University Star student newspaper, gave me both the knowledge and practical skills to begin a newsroom career,” Hiott said.
Hiott fondly recalls late nights and early mornings spent with The University Star team, working hard to make sure they got the paper to press on time. One of those papers brought a lesson she has carried with her since.
“I remember speaking in front of students on the Quad after a lot of readers were upset about something that ran in the paper,” said Hiott. “While it was terrifying, it taught me that people will respect you more when you face the criticism and discuss your decisions.”
How to address criticism is a skill she learned through the mentorship of the late Professor Jeff Henderson, the former director of student publications at Texas State and advisor for The University Star.
“Jeff provided us plenty of guidance, but he also gave us room to make mistakes in a way that helped us learn,” said Hiott. “He believed nothing was worth doing if you didn’t enjoy it, and he particularly believed work should be fun.”
With her new role managing Austin’s National Public Radio affiliate, KUT 90.5, and its music station, 98.9 KUTX, Hiott is hoping to make work fun, while expanding journalism in the Austin area.
“I think media organizations will have to be increasingly innovative about how to fund the important journalism they do,” said Hiott. “Journalists will have to keep learning new storytelling skills to make sure they are providing news and information in the way the audience expects it, not just in the way the journalists are most comfortable.”
She’s hoping to be able to adapt and grow with a staff that is dedicated to their mission.
“I’m looking for people who believe in our mission to inform and entertain the public, regardless of their role in the organization,” Hiott said. “They need to be well-versed in their subject matter area, but also early adopters of new technology who are comfortable trying new things.”
With the rapidly-changing, extremely diverse field of journalism, Hiott encourages students and recent graduates to be open to any opportunity that comes their way.
“Don’t get too hung up on one big dream or career path,” Hiott said. “You never know where your career might take you, so be willing to try new things,” and, “be the employee who doesn’t mind taking risks.”
She also says staying in touch with her alma mater has been a wonderful experience.
“I appreciate that the school keeps me involved by asking me to help on some advisory boards and with students,” Hiott said. “Having an opportunity to give back, after everything I gained from my experience, means so much to me.”