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We’re Hiring! Morning Edition Host & Reporter Position Now Open

TITLE: Morning Edition Host & Reporter
REPORTS TO: General Manager

Marfa Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Our aim is to use the power of storytelling to engage our listeners, celebrate our region, and generate dialogue. Our focus is both excellence and relevance. Marfa Public Radio (along with West Texas Public Radio) has been the most awarded small-market station in the nation during the regional Murrow Awards for excellence in journalism for two years. As public media shifts, we are asking ourselves as a sole service station that covers a vast range: what is the special capacity of our station?
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Part of the existing border wall sits close to a Brownsville neighborhood. (Michael Seifert)

Part of the existing border wall sits close to a Brownsville neighborhood. (Michael Seifert)

Residents Concerned Wall Would Affect Cultural, Business and Familial Ties That Transcend the Border

This story was originally broadcast on a special episode of the Texas Standard called “The Wall”, an hour-long look at the prospect for an expanded border wall under the incoming Trump Administration.

It’s just before the holidays in McAllen, a town of 130,000 on the U.S.-Mexico border. Basilisa Valdez sits in the kitchen at her sister’s house, waiting for relatives to arrive. Here, that means some come from across town, and some from Reynosa, just across the river in Mexico. Before 2008, when a concrete and steel border fence went up along the Rio Grande, she says the two cities could seem like one. But after the wall, she says it’s tough for people who’ve spent most of their lives seeing the borderlands as a single entity.

President-elect Donald Trump and border-wall proponents forget that for decades before 9/11, passage between the U.S. and Mexico was easy, especially for the towns separated by just a sliver of the Rio Grande.

Families spread out and set down roots on either side, creating a web of cultural interconnectivity – a unique shared identity.

“When I see the wall, I feel like they’re trying to separate people,” she says. “I feel like we’re not united.”


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With Lack of Details, Border Landowners Contemplate What a Wall Would Mean

This story was originally broadcast on a special episode of the Texas Standard called “The Wall”, an hour-long look at the prospect for an expanded border wall under the incoming Trump Administration.

Gov. Greg Abbott has described parts of the muddy Rio Grande as “serpentine regions” running through the pristine Big Bend National Park. Abbott has said he does not want to see a border wall built in the park and that there are other parts of the broader Big Bend region where a wall would be “extremely difficult” to build.

But that region is huge.

A couple hours west of the park near Presidio, Texas, alfalfa farmer Terry Bishop walks to the banks of that same winding river. He points out that you can easily toss a rock underhand and hit Mexico.

This isn’t the first time Bishop’s been faced with the prospect of a wall or fence coming through his property, and it’s not the first time he’s thought about how it would change this landscape he’s known for decades.

“As a young teenager, I used to come out in this river and go swimming,” he says. “To not even be able to get to it, or to see some kind of monstrosity out there, would be offensive.”

More importantly, he says a wall would change his livelihood and possibly even ruin it.

“If we were denied access to get down here and do our farming operations, what little farming there is down here would be gone,” he says. “You can’t grow anything in the desert without water. That’s the bottom line.”


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A man walks past a nearly deserted construction site Wednesday in Villa de Reyes, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, as workers shut down operations and remove equipment from the site of a canceled $1.6 billion Ford plant. Ford's cancellation, which costs the region thousands of projected jobs, has sounded alarms in Mexico and sent its currency tumbling. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

A man walks past a nearly deserted construction site Wednesday in Villa de Reyes, San Luis Potosi, Mexico, as workers shut down operations and remove equipment from the site of a canceled $1.6 billion Ford plant. Ford's cancellation, which costs the region thousands of projected jobs, has sounded alarms in Mexico and sent its currency tumbling. (Rebecca Blackwell/AP)

Canceled Ford Plant Adds To Mexico’s Economic Frustrations

Ford Motor Co.’s decision this week to cancel construction of an auto plant in Mexico has shocked that country, causing the peso to slump and stirring up outrage toward incoming President Donald Trump. Anger is high toward Trump in the state where the Ford plant was under construction — and was slated to employ nearly 3,000 local workers.

Usually the dusty construction site of the now-shuttered Mexican Ford auto plant is full of activity. Now only one large tractor can be seen grading roads at the 700-acre site, located outside the small town of Villa de Reyes in the central Mexican state of San Luis Potosi.

Guards at the site’s entrance say the mood is very tense and that the situation is deeply discouraging.

“We all thought this was a long-term project,” says Juan Gonzalez, who had hoped to stay on when the Ford plant opened in three years.

Gustavo Puente Orozco, San Luis Potosi’s secretary of economic development, says the news, while not totally unexpected, came as a shock. Donald Trump began putting a lot of pressure on Ford to pull out of Mexico during the campaign, but Puente says Ford officials in Mexico kept assuring him the project was moving forward, and he says construction kept going.


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Morning Edition Host & Reporter Travis Bubenik interviewing the candidates for Jeff Davis County Judge in Fort Davis, TX in 2014. (Ryan Kailath)

Morning Edition Host & Reporter Travis Bubenik interviewing the candidates for Jeff Davis County Judge in Fort Davis, TX in 2014. (Ryan Kailath)

Parting Words from our Morning Edition Host

Morning Edition Host and Reporter Travis Bubenik is leaving West Texas in January for a reporting position at Houston Public Media, where he’ll cover energy and environment issues in Texas. We asked him to share a few thoughts on his time at Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio as he departs.

Let me just start by saying I am so. dang. proud. to have contributed to this bootstraps reporting effort that has now become an award-winning newsroom. Since I came on board in 2014, with the tireless help of our Fronteras Desk Correspondent Lorne Matalon and former General Manager and KRTS founder Tom Michael, the station you flip on every morning has become more professional almost every single day. We’ve covered stories nobody else has, and broadcast sounds and scenes from West Texas that might have never been committed to tape without this station being here (and without your support of it, of course!)

Change is never easy. I’m definitely going to miss looking out from our big street-front studio windows as the skies over Marfa burst into colors with the sunrise. I’m going to miss the guy who calls in regularly in the depths of winter with a temperature report (“17 degrees at Mitchell Flat!”) And I’m going to miss being able to tell people, “well, we have a wide range, but our audience is mostly cattle.”

Most importantly, I’ll miss talking to you! But here’s the thing: you’ll probably hear me again. The public radio system in Texas is an increasingly collaborative team effort: you’ve heard many stories from Houston here in West Texas, and I’m sure the reverse will be true going forward. On a personal level, I’m extremely excited to be moving forward in my career in a way that allows me to keep my finger on the pulse of West Texas, and that keeps me serving the state as a whole.

So ’till you hear from me again, thanks for listening, and thanks for making this funky little miracle of a radio station possible.

This sign in Marfa, Texas is one of several seen in west Texas since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted construction on the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline in North Dakota. Both it and the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Texas are being built by a consortium of companies led by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas. Mexico is paying for the Texas pipeline. (Lorne Matalon)

This sign in Marfa, Texas is one of several seen in west Texas since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted construction on the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline in North Dakota. Both it and the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Texas are being built by a consortium of companies led by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas. Mexico is paying for the Texas pipeline. (Lorne Matalon)

Dakota Pipeline Standoff Echoes In Texas: Mexico Still Counting On U.S. Natural Gas

MARFA, Texas — Opponents of a pipeline under construction in West Texas are pleased by the national attention garnered by protest against the Dakota Access crude oil pipeline in North Dakota. Construction there has been at least temporarily halted following months of protest. But many people in West Texas are frustrated that it has taken a recent ruling by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halting the work in North Dakota to bring national attention to the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in Texas.

In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux and other Native Americans and their allies attracted widespread attention from both the national media and from Wall Street. The Sioux’s reservation is near Dakota Access. They said the pipeline could threaten their water. Months of protests and rallies have for now translated into a megaproject stopped as it is relatively close to completion.

Coincidentally, a Dec. 13 pipeline leak spilled significant amounts of oil into a creek approximately 150 miles from the Dakota Access protest encampment at Cannon Ball, North Dakota. The spill is the kind of development that opponents of the Dakota Access pipeline point to as an example of the kind of accident they fear.

Both the Dakota Access and Trans-Pecos pipelines are being built by consortiums led by Energy Transfer Partners of Dallas. The company recently announced a merger with Sunoco Logistics. Both companies are controlled by general partner Energy Transfer Equity. President-elect Donald Trump has nominated former Texas governor Rick Perry to be the new Secretary of Energy. Perry is a member of the Board of Directors of Energy Transfer Partners.

In North Dakota, the Army Corps of Engineers ruling has been welcomed by opponents of the Trans-Pecos Pipeline in the Big Bend of Texas, so named for the arc the Rio Grande traverses in this part of the borderlands where the high desert cascades down to the river.


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The border wall at Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas (Lorne Matalon)

The border wall at Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua and El Paso, Texas (Lorne Matalon)

Mexico Proposes Legislation To Counter Border Wall Expansion

MEXICO CITY, DF – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has said he wants to work collaboratively with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

Peña hasn’t commented on the wall publicly since the U.S. election. But his Foreign Secretary, Claudia Ruiz Massieu has. “We’ve been very clear on the fact that Mexico will never consider paying for a wall,” she told PBS Newshour.

Miriam Grunstein is an attorney and advisor to Mexican senators on energy and international law. Legislation has been proposed at the Mexican Senate that bans the use of public funds on any project that is “against the country’s interest.” That’s widely taken to mean the wall.

“Just because of, you know, tantrums, we could really waste a golden opportunity of uniting,” said Grunstein.

The proposed Mexican legislation would lead to a review of some of the most fundamental treaties between the two countries, among them the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe. The treaty ceded Texas and California, as well as parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming to the U.S.


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Mexico Considers Retaliation Should U.S. Withdraw From NAFTA

MEXICO CITY, DF – Mexicans are anxious about the future of  the North American Free Trade Agreement, and how the incoming administration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump may seek to change or even withdraw from the agreement.

Mexican officials are now speaking with Asian nations about how trade between Mexico and Asia might change in a post-NAFTA era.

See more images from Mexico here

Mexican analysts have expressed concern that new investment may slow down due to uncertainty over the agreement.

“It’s the chilling effect on investment,” said Federico Estévez, a political scientist at Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de Mexico, a leading Mexican university whose alumni line the halls of power in Mexico. “We’ve basically turned into an industrial economy on the basis of NAFTA.

NAFTA took effect Jan. 1, 1994, aiming to remove many tariffs and integrate major sectors of the economies of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

“It’s going to have to be Mexico first, more self-reliant,” Estévez said. He said Trump’s victory is prompting some in Mexico, particularly on the left, to double down on their own nationalist goals, which include reducing economic dependence on the U.S.


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Elise Pepple

Elise Pepple

West Texas Public Radio Names Maine Producer Elise Pepple as General Manager

Elise Pepple, a producer of community outreach programming for public radio and podcasts will become the general manager of Marfa Public Radio (KRTS) and West Texas Public Radio (KXWT) this fall.

She has produced for the nationally recognized Story Corps radio series as well as for isolated radio stations in Alaska. Pepple has been a TEDx speaker. She is a resident of Portland, Maine.

“This is a dream position for me,” Pepple said. “It’s an opportunity to help sustain and shape remarkable public radio stations. KRTS and KXWT are a platform to celebrate the wide range of Far West Texas.”

She said she has a strong interest in programming that engages residents in remote rural communities and encourages them to tell their life stories.

Jim Byerlotzer of Midland, president of the Marfa Public Radio Corp. board, welcomed Pepple’s experience in remote parts of the country.

“Our stations in the Big Bend and Permian Basin serve truly distinctive communities set in a huge, magnificent but sometimes isolating landscape,” he said. “Their common radio stations can be a vital unifying force.”


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photograph by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Andres National Wildlife Refuge.
Orthoporus ornatus, the desert millipede, spends most of its life underground. But take to a West Texas highway after an early summer storm, and you'll find you're sharing the road with hundreds, even thousands, of these otherwise elusive desert creatures.
KXWT logo NEW

We’re Hiring! Morning Edition Host & Reporter Position Now Open

TITLE: Morning Edition Host & Reporter
REPORTS TO: General Manager

Marfa Public Radio believes in the capacity of public media to shape and animate who we are, where we live, and how we relate. Our aim is to use the power of storytelling to engage our listeners, celebrate our region, and generate dialogue. Our focus is both excellence and relevance. Marfa Public Radio (along with West Texas Public Radio) has been the most awarded small-market station in the nation during the regional Murrow Awards for excellence in journalism for two years. As public media shifts, we are asking ourselves as a sole service station that covers a vast range: what is the special capacity of our station? Continue reading

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A Bridge in Candelaria

In this week’s episode of Rambling Boy, Lonn Taylor tells the story of an accidentally illegal international footbridge running from Candelaria to to San Antonio del Bravo. Though the bridge was originally crafted for convenience, connecting two towns across the Rio Grande, it was later seen as a threat to national security, raising questions of boarder control and wide line where Mexico and America meet. 

The Rambling Boy is broadcast Monday evenings after the 7 pm newscast.
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Fri. Jan 13 Interview: Hamilton Leithauser

Today on West Texas Talk, Elise Pepple talks to Hamilton Leihauser about his new album and the last time he cried before he plays a show at the Crowley Theater in Marfa tonight.

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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photograph by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Andres National Wildlife Refuge.
Orthoporus ornatus, the desert millipede, spends most of its life underground. But take to a West Texas highway after an early summer storm, and you'll find you're sharing the road with hundreds, even thousands, of these otherwise elusive desert creatures.

Millipedes: The Crypt-Dwellers of West Texas

Apart from the barbed and thorny vegetation, the plains and deserts of West Texas can at times appear still, devoid of life. But a single rain dispels that illusion, as otherwise elusive desert creatures make an appearance. Millipedes are one … Continue reading

Nature Notes is broadcast Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:35 am and 4:45 pm
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Thu. Jan 12 Interview: Robert Peaslee, Tourism, Media and Place

Dr. Robert Peaslee, a professor and Chairperson of Journalism and Electronic Media at Texas Tech University,  has always loved Lord of The Rings, so when he had the chance to visit the location in New Zealand where the movies were filmed, he hopped at the chance to be immersed in a world that he had known and loved for so long.

Today on West Texas Talk, Elise Pepple talks to Peaslee about when fantasy meets reality and the culture of tourism. Peaslee examines how movies, books and television allow us to find meaning and familiarity in a landscape that would be otherwise completely foreign to us. Peaslee specifically talks about his trips to New Zealand, Lord of The Rings and Game of Thrones tourism, how media affects the community and how these communities choose to embrace their newfound identities. 

West Texas Talk is broadcast live at 6:30 pm each weekday.
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Rick Perry resigns from board of Dallas company building Dakota Access Pipeline

Following his appointment by President-elect Donald Trump to be the country’s next energy secretary, former Gov. Rick Perry has resigned from the board of Dallas pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners.

Former Gov. Rick Perry has resigned from the board of Dallas pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners as he prepares to become energy secretary under President-elect Donald Trump.

Perry’s resignation was effective Dec. 31, according to the company’s filing Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. His involvement with the company, which is building the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, had drawn attention as a potential conflict of interest after Trump tapped him for the Cabinet post last month.

“Mr. Perry’s decision to resign from the board of ETP LLC was not due to any disagreement with the Partnership, the General Partner or ETP LLC relating to the operations, practices or policies of the Partnership,” the filing said.

Perry joined the board of Energy Transfer Partners shortly after stepping down as governor in 2015. The company’s CEO is Kelcy Warren, a longtime Perry donor.

Native Americans and environmentalists have fought the Dakota Access Pipeline’s construction in North Dakota. The Army Corps of Engineers announced last month it will look at alternate routes for a part of the project in the state.

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