Texas Matters first hit the airwaves on Texas Public Radio on Sept. 1, 2000. And each week since Yvette Benavides (my creative partner and wife) and I have produced stories, interviews and commentaries for public radio listeners across Texas.
Looking back over the span of the years patterns are revealed – there were legislative fights, battles over textbooks and teaching evolution, assaults on voting rights, the rise of charter schools and lots of questions about what makes Texas Texas – is it the history, the music, the food or something else?
We listened to some of the standout archive stories and interviews from our two decades of doing this project.
First up, an interview that I think back on often to remind myself about why we do what we do. It's an October 2003 interview with Molly Ivins.
In the 19 years that Texas Matters has been broadcasting there have been major stories – so significant that there were no other stories to cover at that time – and none more so that the terror attack on Sept. 11, 2001. While the attacks happened in New York, Washington D.C. and also in a field in Pennsylvania – the impact was being felt here in Texas. And I spoke with then-Gov. Rick Perry about the Texas response.
It was in 2005 that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, which caused the levies to fail and flood the city. Texas sent emergency crews, supplies medical staff and also buses which were used to bring folks stranded at the New Orleans Super Dome to San Antonio. I spoke with bus driver Johnny Keith as he was entering Orange County on his way back from New Orleans.
Another hallmark of Texas Matters has been the author and performing artist interviews conducted by Yvette Benavides. In 2014 she spoke with songwriter Rodney Crowell about his process.
Another presentation of Texas Matters is the long form investigative audio documentaries that we’ve produced over the years. From celebrating the state’s historic dancehalls, exposing problems with concussions in high school football, sex trafficking, remembering the horror of the Waco state home for children, explaining issues on Texas death row – many of these documentaries on Texas Matters were recognized with journalism awards. But one in particular sticks with me – the story of Sean Yates who died at the troubled Texas State Supported Living Center in Corpus Christi.
Over the years conducting interviews for Texas Matters, you never know who is going to be go on to much bigger things. Like in 2001 when I spoke to an upstart named Tito who was taking a gamble by being the small distillery owner in Texas.
Tito’s Vodka now sells about 60 million bottles a year.