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KCUR news director Lisa Rodriguez is named PMJA Editor of the Year

Lisa Rodriguez joined KCUR as an intern in 2014 and became news director in 2020.
Lisa Rodriguez
Lisa Rodriguez joined KCUR as an intern in 2014 and became news director in 2020.

The Public Media Journalists’ Association’s annual Editor of the Year award recognizes an individual who “exemplifies the very best in story editing and newsroom leadership.” Lisa Rodriguez was named KCUR’s news director in November 2020, but started at the station years before as an intern.

Lisa Rodriguez, who began her career at KCUR as an intern and rose to the position of news director, has been named the 2023 Editor of the Year by the Public Media Journalists Association.

Instituted in 2017, the award is “designed to recognize the importance of editors to the craft of journalism,” according to PMJA, an organization representing public media journalists across the United States.

“We are thrilled that our national peers have recognized Lisa’s singular talent – though anyone who has worked with her won’t be surprised,” said KCUR’s content director C.J. Janovy. “She leads with her heart, and her talent shines even when the news is at its worst.”

Rodriguez was nominated by two colleagues, fellow editors Gabe Rosenberg and Madeline Fox, who praised her leadership during a particularly difficult time for KCUR. When Rodriguez became news director in November 2020, the station’s then-content director had departed abruptly, the station was under interim leadership and the pandemic was in full force.

In the months that followed, KCUR also suffered the devastating loss of reporter Aviva Okeson-Haberman.

“Lisa proved to be exactly the leader that KCUR needed in that time, a stable presence and a guiding light who made healing and mental health a priority for the entire station going forward,” wrote Rosenberg and Fox.

“Collaboration is first nature for Lisa: she creates an inviting and supportive atmosphere, where people feel welcomed and comfortable sharing their concerns and their ideas and trust that Lisa will take them seriously. Lisa knows and values every part of KCUR’s newsroom because she’s done it herself,” they added, noting that Rodriguez started at KCUR in 2014 as an intern, then worked as an associate producer on the Up to Date talk show before becoming City Hall reporter and then afternoon newscaster.

They also expressed gratitude for what’s come to be known as reporters’ “story therapy” sessions in which Rodriguez “makes time to talk through reporting that they’re stuck on, or scripting to help them tease out the best way forward. It makes their work stronger and builds their confidence. Lisa is also training reporters to ask for help and talk through issues, rather than letting them balloon into bigger roadblocks, which has been a gift to the editors who work with those reporters later on.”

Under Rodriguez’s leadership, KCUR helped create the KC Media Collective, a collaboration between multiple nonprofit news organizations in Kansas City. She was also involved in the launch of the NPR Midwest Newsroom, an investigative team that covers four states.

A native of Santiago, Chile, Rodriguez has overseen the creation of KCUR’s daily news podcast Kansas City Today, led coverage of multiple national events and expanded the station’s Spanish-language content.

She will be presented with the 2023 PMJA Editor of the Year award at the organization’s annual conference in San Antonio in June.

A free press is among our country’s founding principles and most precious resources. As director of content-journalism at KCUR, I want everyone in our part of America to know we see them and we’re listening. I work to make sure the stories we tell and the conversations we convene reflect our complex realities, informing and inspiring all of us to meet the profound challenges of our time. Email me at cj@kcur.org.
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