Hubbard leading KOSU to new heights with culture of collaboration
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 | email@example.com
From growing up on an Oklahoma farm to providing news to rural communities, KOSU Executive Director Rachel Hubbard is passionate about filling news deserts in Oklahoma.
Hubbard became the executive director in February 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. Since then, she has guided the station to an online growth of more than 50%, introduced a daily news podcast and started an extensive giving program. On top of this, KOSU has seen increased fundraising success, allowing it to better meet the information needs of Oklahomans.
When she first started at KOSU as a student reporter, Hubbard already had some radio experience. She knew how to perform some technical tasks, like board operations. The first award she ever won at KOSU was the Scripps Howard National Journalism Foundation Award for her coverage of the 2001 plane crash that took the lives of 10 people from the Oklahoma State University men’s basketball program.
“I had the opportunity to cover a really important breaking news event and understand how to be part of a reporting team,” Hubbard said. “So, I learned a ton because I had the opportunity to do something professionally while in tandem with my education.”
Beyond her journey as a student reporter, Hubbard has received numerous awards for her work, including the Sigma Delta Chi Award and Bronze Medallion from the Society for Professional Journalists for her reporting on the 2013 Moore tornado and the duPont-Columbia Silver Baton for her contributions in 2021 to Blindspot: Tulsa Burning, a podcast on the Tulsa Race Massacre. This project was also a finalist for a Peabody Award, the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for radio.
Hubbard is a mentor for Next Generation Radio, a member of Oklahoma City Rotary Club 29, the Joint NPR Network Leadership Team, the Institute for Nonprofit News and the Online News Association.
“I think that being networked at both a local and national level helps us understand models and things that are working and to scale things in the state of Oklahoma,” Hubbard said.
Staff reductions and pervasive challenges across the news media industry have left many areas, especially rural ones, without a dedicated newspaper, radio station or television station.
Despite these challenges, KOSU has thrived under Hubbard. After graduating from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications in 2003, she returned in 2017 to get her master’s degree with an emphasis in entrepreneurship.
“I wondered how we could disrupt our industry and position it for the future,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard used her new degree to propel the station to new heights, opening up a new world of opportunities. Recently, KOSU announced it would be moving into a new building.
This expansion will grow the station’s headquarters from 4,900 square feet to 5,820 square feet. The new facility will be modular enough for KOSU to continue to build and grow.
KOSU has expanded its coverage to include an agriculture and rural affairs reporter. This coverage is close to Hubbard’s heart, as her family operates a farm in Washita County.
“The 2020 census indicated that Oklahoma had the fastest diversifying neighborhoods of any state in the country, including rural areas,” Hubbard said. “The places most disproportionately affected by the shrinkage of local news are our rural areas and communities of color. So, we started thinking about the stories we heard and who we were interacting with. The first hire I made was an engagement reporter.”
KOSU also has an Indigenous affairs reporter and plans to hire a state government reporter to provide in-depth coverage of the Oklahoma Legislature and other state government agencies.
In support of these roles, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting commissioned a study as a first step in increasing state government coverage.
“We were pleased to see stations citing collaboration as a positive change they’ve seen in state government coverage,” said Joy Lin, CPB vice president of journalism. “Moving forward, we hope to leverage this collaborative culture to help stations deliver robust yearlong reporting, increase investigative reporting capacity and develop formats that reach new audiences.”
Hubbard’s innovative approach doesn’t stop with expanding coverage areas. KOSU is also experimenting with new ways to deliver news and information. For example, the station launched a text messaging service allowing users to receive news updates directly on their phones. KOSU started this service in 2016 without much luck, but it picked up after 2020.
The expansion of news deserts has left many communities without access to essential information. But Hubbard and her team are passionate about continuing to combat that trend.
“We’re at a turning point,” said Ryan LaCroix, KOSU director of content and audience development. “But I can’t say that we have all the answers. We need people to join us in this cycle of innovation as we try to figure out what the model is — not for someone in Massachusetts, but for people right here in Oklahoma.”
Photos by: Gary Lawson
Story by: Mak Vandruff | STATE Magazine