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KERA and The Dallas Morning News name editor to lead Arts Access partnership

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Kim Leeson
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Samantha Guzman, the new coordinating editor of Arts Access, the new joint endeavor being shared by The Dallas Morning News and KERA.

The collaboration between the two news outlets aims to cover arts and culture in North Texas ‘through the lens of equity and access.’

Explore more stories from Arts Access.

Samantha Guzman, a multimedia journalist who distinguished herself at Austin PBS, leading a community journalism effort focused on diversity, has been named editor of Arts Access, the new editorial partnership between KERA and The Dallas Morning News.

Launched in October, Arts Access is a joint endeavor of the two news organizations, with the mission of providing “arts, music and culture coverage in North Texas, through the lens of equity and access.”

Guzman is the latest addition to its staff, along with Michelle Aslam, who comes to the partnership from National Public Radio, where she has worked as a reporter and audio producer since October of last year. They start in mid-January. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Aslam will be the project’s second reporter alongside Elizabeth Myong.

Myong grew up in the Dallas area and previously worked as digital producer at KERA. Already her reporting for Arts Access has spotlighted the barriers faced by women in classical music, challenges arts groups are confronting to bring back audiences, and a new literary group for local Muslim writers.

In announcing Arts Access this year, KERA and The News vowed to create and share their reporting across multiple platforms including print, online, radio, podcasts and video. The content is free and is supported by philanthropic funding.

Coverage the partnership has provided in recent months extends from a Black leader’s abrupt resignation at the Fort Worth Opera, to a proposal for affordable housing for Dallas artists.

“The mission and the goal is to provide a more equitable view of the arts community in North Texas,” Guzman said. “The arts community in North Texas is vibrant and has a great history, but I think when you look at the traditional institutions and the traditional way we’ve often reported on arts in the past, I think perhaps it hasn’t been the most equitable and has overlooked under-represented communities.

“This project has the potential to broaden our definition of arts,” she said, “and reach new audiences — potentially more people of color, younger people. I think it gives us the opportunity to expand on the great work that KERA and The News have done, reporting on the arts community in the past, but doing it in a way that will both highlight and reach new audiences.”

Guzman noted that much of her own work has focused “on personal stories and what individual people go through.” She sees the new mission as one that will “resonate across groups, across cultures. But the beauty of this project is that it gives us the opportunity to enter communities and reach people that maybe we haven’t reached in the past. We can listen to them and see what they need from us and have that influence our coverage.”

Raised by parents who came to America from the Dominican Republic, Guzman was born in New York and moved with her family to Grand Prairie during the early years of grade school. “And that’s where I grew up, so I have a big connection with North Texas communities.”

After graduating from South Grand Prairie High School, she moved on to the University of North Texas, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in photojournalism and a master’s degree in journalism.

She worked previously at KERA, the Dallas affiliate of NPR and PBS, “and now, I’m coming home in a sense, which is why I’m excited to work on this project.”

Before joining Arts Access, Guzman will be wrapping up her tenure as the executive editor of Decibel, a community journalism project at Austin PBS, where she has specialized in visual storytelling — an area of expertise she looks forward to bringing to Arts Access.

Aslam, the reporter, recently finished a year of NPR’s Kroc Fellowship, a competitive program for audio journalists who are recent graduates.

Guzman also served as associate producer for "Think," the midday talk show at KERA. She shot videos and photos for the station and had the distinction of producing the first Spanish-language online video in KERA’s history. During her time in Dallas, she shared in collaborative projects that earned such honors as a regional Edward R. Murrow award. She was also selected to participate in NPR’s Next Generation Radio Project.

“This team will pioneer new forms of storytelling about the arts,” said Anne Bothwell, vice president of arts at KERA. “They’ll also engage with North Texans whose interests and passions haven’t always been represented by current arts coverage. We’re excited for the team to dive in!”

For Guzman, it’s been a roundabout path to the position. “I did not grow up going to museums or concerts,” she said. “It was not something that my family could necessarily afford to do. Or it wasn’t places that I felt like I belonged. And yet, I felt like my life was so rich with art and music and culture.”

She likes the idea of highlighting artists “who are doing this amazing work but who maybe are not getting the recognition they deserve. And that for me is what I’m really passionate about in pursuing this project — finding the people who are often overlooked when we use the term ‘art.’”

Arts Access is a partnership between KERA and The Dallas Morning News that expands local arts, music and culture coverage through the lens of access and equity.

This community-funded journalism initiative is funded by the Better Together Fund, Carol & Don Glendenning, City of Dallas OAC, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Dallas Foundation, Eugene McDermott Foundation, James & Gayle Halperin Foundation, Jennifer & Peter Altabef and The Meadows Foundation. The News and KERA retain full editorial control of Arts Access’ journalism.