Marfa Public Radio Network Founder Accepts New GM Role in Idaho

West Texas Public Radio’s General Manager and Founder of the Marfa Public Radio Network is leaving West Texas, more than a decade after founding the station in 2005.

Tom Michael has accepted a position as General Manager of Boise State Public Radio in Idaho.

Since starting the Big Bend region’s only source for NPR news from scratch, Michael helped build KRTS into a public media network of four stations that serves a wide range of West Texas – from Sierra Blanca to Marathon, Big Bend National Park to the Permian Basin. Michael led the charge for the adoption of the KOCV signal from Odessa College, and the expanded signal and program offerings on KXWT 91.3 FM in the Permian Basin.

Michael sat down to talk about his July 2016 departure and to reflect back on 11 years of building a listener-supported media organization.

Michael described the station as being on solid financial footing for the years ahead.

“We just retired three of four debts, we just brought in a $50,000 grant from the FMH Foundation,” he said. “[Corporation for Public Broadcasting] funding remains strong, our membership consistent, we’re adding new underwriters, we’ve kept our costs low year after year. And since we’ve shed some assets that we didn’t need, we’ve got money in the bank.”

Michael also praised the Marfa Public Radio for being “one of the preeminent small market stations in the nation,” noting that the station recently received a special shout-out from NPR CEO Jarl Mohn.

Jim Byerlotzer is president of the Marfa Public Radio Network’s Board of Directors. He and his wife Donna Byerlotzer together praised Michael for his commitment to the station and hard work, saying they’ve come to admire Michael’s vision.

Tom Michael of KRTS interviews a vaquero from northern Mexico, in Brewster County, Texas, August 2005. (Caroline Oman)

Tom Michael of KRTS interviews a vaquero from northern Mexico, in Brewster County, Texas, August 2005. (Caroline Oman)

“His sense of story and program, with that catchy ‘from the Border to the Basin’ byline, have taken the station to a respected position in the industry,” Byerlotzer said.

“Reporters he has taken under his wing have earned prestigious awards and national reputations. All of this in just a decade from scrappy beginnings in a small, dusty west Texas town. Hats off to Tom and Katherine [Shaughnessy, Michael’s wife] as they head off to new adventures.”

Byerlotzer said the board of directors has already begun the process of selecting a search committee made up of the station’s stakeholders throughout its listening audience.

“The committee will be tasked with posting a job description for the General Manager position and will seek a candidate who will lead the station with enthusiasm and dedication,” he said.

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