FOR LISTENERS OF NEVADA PUBLIC RADIO, you’ve likely heard her voice. And although these days she appears on air only during membership campaigns, the cadence of Flo Rogers’ British accent is as distinct as her enthusiasm for sustaining and growing the local programming efforts of public radio in Southern Nevada.
As president and general manager of Nevada Public Radio, Rogers aims to strike a balance between being a zealous cheerleader for KNPR and a focused leader who can take the organization’s aspirations to produce quality media for the local community and make it a reality. Whether she is building relationships with donors, chiming in on the latest cover design for Desert Companion, or sitting on NPR’s National Board, a position she was elected to last year, she embraces her job with gusto.
Rogers got her start working in college radio as a graduate student at San Diego State University in the late 1980s. After graduation she returned to her native England, and worked briefly in commercial radio on the Isle of Wight, where she grew up. She returned to San Diego in the early 1990s, and soon found herself straddling two vastly different radio worlds. She became the overnight board operator at San Diego’s public radio station, KPBS, and, at the same time, took a part-time position at a local rock station, where she played the Clash, New Order and, from time-to-time, threw in a little Kate Bush for good measure.
Despite her desire to become a full-time rock DJ, Rogers eventually realized that public radio was where she belonged.
While Rogers’ days as a rock DJ may be over, traces of her past are prominently displayed on the walls of her office at the Donald W. Reynolds Broadcasting Center on the campus of the College of Southern Nevada. There’s a framed poster from the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival, which featured some of the biggest names in music at the time, including Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez and The Doors, and a Soundgarden platinum record, given to her when she left her job at the rock station in 1994.
Today, Rogers’ passion for all things public radio is what both drives and inspires her.
Rogers came to Las Vegas in 2001 when she was hired as the Program Director at KNPR. It was a time when the city was growing quickly, yet many people lamented that Vegas lacked a sense of community and connection.
While many of her colleagues in journalism moved on to bigger markets after just a few years, it didn’t take Rogers long to realize that Las Vegas was where she wanted to be. “I was here at a time when there was a great appetite for public radio to get beyond some of the clichés of what we thought Las Vegas was.” It was also a time when Nevada Public Radio was poised to play an increasingly important role in creating a stronger sense of community among people who lived here.
One of the first major programming initiatives that Rogers had a hand in developing was KNPR’s popular news and information show, State of Nevada. Along with former local news anchor Gwen Castaldi, who served as a consultant, Rogers wrote a grant requesting funds to launch the program, which was intended to be a hub for daily conversations about the key issues that define Southern Nevada.
“Our thought was that if we could create a venue for local news and discussion, we could drive the narrative in a direction that will ultimately be community-building for Las Vegas. To my surprise, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting said yes, and State of Nevada went on the air in 2003.”
State of Nevada has covered subjects ranging from the effect of the housing crisis on Southern Nevada to the state of education, homelessness, mental illness and everything in between. For Rogers, the program is a “crystallization of why we are here and why we do what we do, which is to provide the community with high quality, independent and distinctive media that’s relevant to the people who live here, work here, and raise their families here.”
Nevada Public Radio is also part of the Fronteras project, a multi-media collaboration between seven public radio stations in the Southwest that aims to produce impactful reporting about issues specific to the region, particularly stories dealing with the US-Mexican border, including immigration, trade, security and drugs.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting funded the project with close to one million dollars over two years, which allowed the partnering stations to hire a diverse cohort of young reporters who are based in San Diego, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Tucson, San Antonio, Las Cruces and Las Vegas.
Reporter Jude Joffe-Block, who is based in Las Vegas, has reported stories for Fronteras on the Latino vote, medical tourism in Mexico, language barriers in the Nevada court system and the housing market. These are issues, Rogers emphasizes, that “ripple out across the region.”
According to Rogers, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting wanted to invest in local stations to build their capacity to do news reporting that was more than just local.
“If you can do good regional news reporting, then the whole public radio system gets stronger because you can work more effectively with national producers. You can be a more effective partner,” Rogers explains.
One of Rogers’ main responsibilities as general manager is to advocate for the sustainability of what public radio does in communities. She can’t think of a better example of federal dollars being put to good use than the Fronteras project. “Our listeners can tune in, and hear very nuanced discussions about the issues that are affecting the entire region.”
When I ask Rogers what she’s especially proud of during more than a decade at Nevada Public Radio, first as program director and then as general manager, she returns to the theme of community.
“One of the things that I am most proud of is the way the organization has developed. I have been able to build upon what our founder, Lamar Marchese, created. And this has to do with the whole team. What we have done together is to make Nevada Public Radio a very relevant community institution, and the degree of relevancy over the last decade has really accelerated with every year.”
“I’m fortunate to be the face of a brand that’s engendered a lot of trust and respect, and a lot of deep appreciation among local people here. It’s touching to hear how much we mean to people. It’s really an honor.”
Previously published by diamondcake. Updated by smallTALK. Archived for Flo Rogers.