We veer away from the standard stories on alcoholism, gaming and meth addiction just because there are plenty of people already reporting on that. We want to give all the good people in Indian Country some air time too.
-Executive Producer of KUTâ€™s â€˜Tribal Beat,â€™ Kim Pappin
Hi, Iâ€™m Aaron Henkin, curator of the NPR Station Showcase with PRX. This weekly podcast spotlights an exceptional piece of locally produced radio work from one of the hundreds of public radio stations around the country. And this week, our travels take us to KSUT in Colorado. KSUT provides two stations to its listening area: Four Corners Public Radio broadcasts from Durango, Colorado, to Gallup, New Mexico, and Southern Ute Tribal Radio broadcasts to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the communities of Ignacio and Bayfield, Colorado. Both stations carry a local weekly program called Tribal Beat, which profiles politicians, artists, and activists who are working to make a difference in local Native communities. KSUTâ€™s Kim Pappin is the executive producer of Tribal Beat — hereâ€™s a brief Q & A with Kim about her background and her work at KSUTâ€¦
What sort of a station is KSUT, format-wise, and what kind of local programming comes out of there?
KSUT provides two radio stations: Southern Ute Tribal Radio 91.3 FM serving the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and the communities of Ignacio and Bayfield with Native American and local programming; and Four Corners Public Radio serving 14 communities from Durango, Colorado to Farmington, New Mexico with national, local and international news; a Triple A and Americana music mix; and cultural programming.
Tell us a bit about your own background and radio experience…
I received a BA in Communications/Broadcast Journalism from the University of Washington in 1992. I then moved to Telluride, Colorado, ostensibly to get some on-air experience at their community radio station before moving on to commercial radio. Once I was involved in public radio I was hooked I no longer had an interest in commercial radio. So, I stayed in Telluride for 12 years, volunteering as a DJ at KOTO 91.7FM for the entire time. I also served a year and a half on KOTOâ€™s Board of Directors. After years of skiing and bartending I finally decided it was time to get paid for doing what I love, so I moved a couple of hours away to Durango, CO where we are lucky enough to have two public radio stations. KSUT is owned by the Southern Ute Tribe and I realized that by working here I would be able to help get news, information and music on the air about Native people. This is important to me as Iâ€™m a member of the Osage Nation based in Pawhuska, OK.
What’s the history behind your program, Tribal Beat? How long has it been around, and what’s its mission?
The Tribal Beat was created by Susan Davids who formerly worked at KSUT. She has just recently moved back to her own reservation in Wisconsin — The Stockbridge Munsee Community Band of Mohigans. She began producing the Tribal Beat in early 2003. Iâ€™ve been a continual contributor to the show for the past 2 1/2 years but when Susan left I became the Executive Producer. I have made a few format changes but the mission of our show remains the same: To celebrate all of the good things that are happening for Indian people today. To talk about the politicians, musicians, teachers, activists and youth who are making a difference in their Native communities. We veer away from the standard stories on alcoholism, gaming and meth addiction just because there are plenty of people already reporting on that. We want to give all the good people in Indian Country some air time too.
What kind of a listenership are you broadcasting to, demographically?
KSUT has approximately 40,000 listeners in the Four Corners region. The demographics are quite varied, reaching a primarily Native American audience with Southern Ute Tribal radio and a more NPR-type audience with Four Corners Public Radio. Tribal Beat is broadcast on both stations.
In this broadcast of Tribal Beat, you’ve got a segment called ‘Notes from Indian Country,’ a vocabulary lesson on a Ute ‘word-of-the-week,’ a feature about food and giving thanks at harvest time, a conversation about ‘archeo-astronomy,’ a report about Native American school kids and the need for cultural sensitivity in area schools, a profile about hip hop and its influence on kids from reservations, and a local events calendar… What does it take to gather so much material each week and fit it into a half hour show?
Well, honestly, it takes a lot of hours of production work: finding story ideas, interviewing relevant parties, editing, writing scripts and recording your own voice. We get help from our news department for Notes from Indian Country and occasional features. Tribal community members help us out with the Ute word. Frequently, our staff is in transition — people moving or taking better paying jobs — so I just try to involve the different voices as they pass through the stationâ€¦ get them to contribute a piece or two before they leave. I also sometimes rely on PRX for smaller pieces to fit into our half hour show. The Public Radio Exchange has definitely been a necessity sometimes when we need material. One of my hopes for the Tribal Beat is that it will be available every week to all Native stations in the U.S. and that they, in turn, might be interested in contributing stories to the show. This is all in the works right now and may take awhile as Native radio producers are few and far between. But, the Tribal Beat could prove to be a useful place for Natives to practice and refine their broadcasting skills. Iâ€™m hopeful that in the future we can pull many stories from producers all across Indian Country. Oh yeahâ€¦ and to make a show like this possible you need someone (or many someones) to work long hours for little money!
Kim Pappin is the executive producer of KSUTâ€™s weekly program â€˜Tribal Beat.â€™ You can hear other episodes of â€˜Tribal Beatâ€™ online at The Public Radio Exchange. Thatâ€™s where producers from around the world share their work. Write your own reviews and help influence what ends up on the radio at www.prx.org.