Kyle Mackie joined the KHOL newsroom as news director in late January. She’s coming to us from WBFO, the NPR affiliate in Buffalo, New York. With a background in international reporting, Kyle has also worked in Israel and the Palestinian territories and the Western Balkans. Following our conversation with reporter and producer Will Walkey last week, we wanted to introduce KHOL listeners to another key member of our growing local news team.
COHEN: Kyle, it’s been great to have you here at the station. You’re coming from one cold and wintry place to another. Hopefully that’s been an easy transition for you.
MACKIE: Yes, that’s true. I’m also from a cold place originally. I am from upstate New York, so I’m used to snow. And when I moved to Buffalo, everyone was like, ‘You better like winter!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, of course, I wouldn’t have moved here if I didn’t like winter.’ So, I’m telling people the same thing in Jackson.
COHEN: So, you have a background in international reporting. Why did you make this shift to local news?
MACKIE: I’ve always been drawn to international affairs and exploring other countries and cultures from a young age. I was a Rotary exchange student after high school and then I went on to study international affairs in college. So, I was thrilled to gain some international reporting experience and focus on that in journalism school. But I also really wanted to have an impact at home. I wanted to have an impact here in the U.S. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to be a local reporter in my home state of New York, in Buffalo. But I just find that it’s incredibly rewarding to have that impact, really to be living among the people that you’re reporting on and reporting for.
COHEN: What issues do you think are critical in covering community news?
MACKIE: Well, I’m definitely biased towards education. That’s a big one for me. In Buffalo, education was my primary beat there at the station. It opened my eyes a lot to how schools are not only a microcosm of society, every issue that you can examine in our larger society is playing out in schools, but also laying the groundwork for those things. So, education is one I’d like to bring a focus on here at KHOL. And then also the housing and affordability crisis in Jackson. Along with that, of course, comes the rampant inequality here. That’s something I’d like to focus on, as well as immigration.
COHEN: We’ve been shifting our focus from being primarily a music station to a format that still has lots of music, but also includes more local news and talk programing. Can you talk a little bit more about that and why you think that transition is important?
MACKIE: So, let me just assuage everyone’s fears that music is not going away at the station. It’s an integral part of the studio. It’s part of why I was so excited to join the station. I’m a music lover. My dad’s a musician. I’m also a radio news lover, obviously. That’s why I’m in this industry. I just firmly believe that more news in a community is always a good thing. And I think there’s a lot of room for partnerships and different kinds of reporting. If we can contribute to more community awareness, more understanding and, frankly, more empathy in the community, then I feel like we will have served our purpose.
COHEN: We’ve in the past year established partnerships with the Rocky Mountain Community Radio Network, and we’ve done series with the Mountain West News Bureau.
MACKIE: There’s so much we can learn from what’s happening in other states and towns around the Mountain West and hopefully they can learn from us here, too.
COHEN: We are the only community radio station in Wyoming, but there are many community radio stations in the West. And so we have a lot to learn from them and from some of those communities, and what they’re doing to solve some of these same challenges that we’re facing here.
COHEN: Can you tell listeners a little bit more about your background in international reporting? And what were some of the stories you covered?
MACKIE: Since I’ve made this career shift into journalism, I’ve been in Israel and the Palestinian territories and in the Western Balkans, specifically Bosnia. But I also did some reporting in Serbia and Croatia. I secured a summer internship in Bosnia at an investigative journalism network called the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project. [It was] one of those experiences where you realize that maybe something doesn’t quite work for you, but it’s valuable because you realize that. So, I was assisting with research for these long-term investigations, but also working on their daily news desk and just kind of writing some quicker daily news stories about financial fraud, corruption, organized crime. And then I was fortunate enough to get a fellowship called the Jerusalem Press Club Fellowship in 2018. So, I left New York City, where I was living at the time, and went to Israel and was able to be a fellow with this paper Haaretz, which is kind of considered The New York Times of Israel. It’s a great established Israeli paper, and I reported on a wide range of political and cultural issues.
COHEN: Both places are conflict zones, or a former conflict zone.
MACKIE: Yeah. That was kind of a coincidence. But yes, I do have this experience in these two kinds of post… I almost don’t even want to say post-conflict zones, because it’s more like in those regions, the conflict has really been frozen in place. It is ongoing.
COHEN: Is there anything else you want listeners to know about you?
MACKIE: One thing I think I’ve been struggling with since moving to Jackson is a feeling of inadequacy in terms of my outdoor recreation abilities. I mean, I grew up in the woods. I love the outdoors. I moved here because I want to have more access to that. But I’m starting slowly. I’m really hoping to just explore the natural wonder of the environment here, you know, and I’m looking forward to learning from everybody in that arena.
COHEN: Kyle, thank you for joining us here in the studio today. And for listeners, if you have a story idea or tip or want to give Kyle a little tour of the mountains, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. And stay tuned for more from KHOL’s newsroom at the top of the hour and in our weekly show, “Jackson Unpacked,” airing Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m. and Fridays and Sundays at 12:30 p.m.