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KERA hires veteran newsroom leader known for mentorship, building ties with underserved communities

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Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch
/
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Gilbert Bailon has been named executive editor for KERA News

KERA’s new executive editor is a veteran newsroom leader with strong ties to North Texas who’s known for reaching out to underserved communities.

Gilbert Bailon is a former executive editor of The Dallas Morning News. He was the founding editor and publisher of Al Día, a Spanish-language newspaper and website operated by The News.

Bailon’s appointment as the executive editor for KERA News was announced Tuesday. He will lead a newsroom that serves the fifth-largest media market in the nation.

KERA Chief Content and Diversity Officer Sylvia Komatsu said she was thrilled to welcome Bailon as KERA’s new executive editor.

“Gilbert’s commitment to public service journalism, accountability and diversity perfectly aligns with KERA’s mission to serve audiences across North Texas,” she said.

Nico Leone, KERA’s president and chief executive officer, said Bailon will help meet the rapidly changing needs of KERA’s growing audiences.

“Gilbert is bringing deep expertise and creativity to a skilled and dedicated newsroom,” Leone said.

Bailon currently serves as the editor-in-chief of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He oversaw the Post-Dispatch’s coverage of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and the social unrest that followed. The Post-Dispatch won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news photography and was a Pulitzer finalist for editorial writing for its coverage following the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

“Returning to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to work with the dynamic KERA News team and their colleagues throughout Texas is an exciting professional opportunity,” Bailon said. “We will build upon a legacy of exceptional journalism and strive to reach even broader audiences with expanded coverage and innovations.”

Helping others

Former colleagues say that Bailon is well known for his willingness to help others develop their skills. And that was noted when he received the President’s Award from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in 2021.

“Hard-working and humble, Gilbert Bailon’s mentorship and support has paved the way for the success of countless young journalists,” said Nora Lopez, the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

The National Press Foundation honored Bailon with the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award in 2014 for his leadership following Michael Brown’s shooting. The judges had this to say about Bailon:

“If ever a newspaper and its editor faced a real-time stress test, it was the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and editor Gilbert Bailon. Gilbert was a strong presence both in the community and in his newsroom, fighting for access and striving to keep the coverage balanced and emotions in check.”

Journalists who’ve worked with Bailon say he has promoted diversity in the newsroom throughout his career. He’s a past president of the NAHJ.

Texas ties

Bailon’s ties to Texas run deep.

He covered night cops and courts and also worked as a general assignment reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram early in his career – from 1982 to 1985. After that, he worked at the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Los Angeles Daily News.

But he returned to the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 1986 to join the staff of The Dallas Morning News. He worked there for more than two decades.

Bailon was the lead reporter on an award-winning series on immigration and held several editing positions. He ultimately rose through the ranks to become The News’ executive editor from 1998 to 2003. He launched Al Día as its founding editor and publisher in 2003.

He earned a master’s degree in American history, with an emphasis on U.S. politics and U.S.-Mexico relations, from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1992.

Bailon joined the Post-Dispatch in 2007 as its editorial page editor and has served as its editor-in-chief for almost a decade.

Leading KERA News

Bailon joins a growing news team at KERA.

KERA recently launched a new Government Accountability reporting team that is dedicated to holding local and regional officials accountable for the decisions they make and hired reporters who cover Arlington and Fort Worth. It also is expanding local and regional partnerships, including collaborations with The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Report.

KERA is the lead station of The Texas Newsroom — a first-of-its-kind journalism collaborative between NPR and the public radio stations of Texas.

Q and A with Gilbert Bailon

What excites you about leading the KERA news team?

The KERA platforms have long been respected for blending local and national coverage for people who seek thoughtful news coverage and dialogue that engages the community. Also, I previously worked with some of the KERA staffers whom I know are highly skilled. I was an avid consumer of KERA News when I worked in DFW earlier.

Throughout your career, you’ve stressed the importance of covering underserved communities. What would you like to say to folks in North Texas who feel that the issues important to them have been ignored?

In many markets, underserved communities get covered but often missing is the full breadth of those communities in their wider context and nuance. Underserved communities … deserve the time and effort from newsrooms to reflect them more completely. Historical context and sourcing are critical across race, gender, immigration status, language, culture, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and religion.

What can a news organization like KERA do for the community?

KERA serves the community with verified and deeply reported news coverage. The various media platforms reach different audiences and help people to understand each other better. KERA is a bridge to increase understanding among many diverse people who share a geography and embrace different viewpoints, yet they have an intertwined destiny.

What are some of the challenges that KERA and other news organizations face?

All news organizations that embrace fact-based, well-sourced coverage face criticism and must overcome disinformation or blatant political advocacy. Consumers are awash in many forms of media that follow them on their devices night and day. Trusted news organizations like KERA must continue to hew to their ethical moorings and distinguish their coverage from less reputable content on social media and outlets that communicate with an overt political bent or a desire to undermine constructive community dialogue.

Talk a little bit about your connections to Texas and why you wanted to come back to the Lone Star State.

I worked at The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for almost 25 years combined, the bulk of my newspaper career. The area has grown and developed in the 14 years since I moved to St. Louis, yet the local character and many institutions remain very familiar. My wife and I have three sons, their spouses and six grandchildren who live in the DFW area. I have visited frequently over the years and kept a pulse on the local news events in my former hometown.

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