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Commentary

Gary Borders: Bidding a fond farewell to Kate

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Gary Borders
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My love affair with Red River Radio began in San Augustine, when Shreveport station KDAQ first went on the air in 1984. I was first exposed to National Public Radio while briefly attending graduate school at the University of Missouri, and then transferring to UT-Austin, where KUT became my constant listening companion. So I was overjoyed when KDAQ — the flagship of the network now known as Red River Radio — went on the air.

But first I had to mount a rooftop antenna to pull in the signal from Louisiana. It was worth the effort. A world without public radio would be bleaker, less fulfilling and not nearly as interesting. It has been a constant companion, and I have been a faithful member for a long time.

About 13 years ago, while publishing the Lufkin paper, I was asked to serve on Red River Radio’s community advisory board. I carpooled to the bi-monthly meetings with Dr. Archie McDonald — my former history professor, colleague and friend. That is where I met Kate Archer Kent, though she was simply Kate Archer at the time. She had come on board as Red River Radio’s news producer.

Kate added a valued dimension to Red River Radio, producing a wrap-up of area news each weekday, as well as her own stories. More than a few made it onto the national network. I would be driving home from work listening to “All Things Considered” or “Marketplace” and hear a familiar voice. Kate had made the big time, I would think, and smile.

When Archie passed away after battling cancer in 2012, I wrote a column about this extraordinary man. I ended up succeeding him in his Friday morning time slot three-and-a-half years ago. I realize I am a poor substitute for Archie. I don’t have his talents or voice. Of the latter, I once wrote a book blurb for Archie and described his voice as “mellifluous.” It was the one and only time I stumped him. He said, sounding annoyed, “I had to look that word up, Borders.” But it fit. So many of us miss him still.

Kate became my producer. At first I drove to Shreveport and recorded a batch at a time, as Archie had done. Kate was always patient, as I stumbled and had to re-record a sentence or two, sometimes four or five times. She counseled me on how to write for radio — shorter sentences in simple subject, verb and direct object form. I admit I have not followed directions well.

Now I record the pieces in my study closet and send them electronically. I try my best to repeat any mangled sentences, confident she will make me sound much more articulate than I do in real life. Occasionally, she will text and ask me to re-record a sentence, or point out a mistake in AP style. It is always done with kindness and a desire to make each piece the best it can possibly be. But I do think she secretly enjoys catching this aged journalist making an AP style error.

Kate’s work ethic is truly admirable. She is at the station long before going on air at 5 a.m., scouring area news websites for stories — always giving credit to the original source. She and her husband, Alexandyr, are parents of four young children, including twins who are not quite 2. And yet she still finds time to produce her own stories. She does it all with grace and serenity.

Now Kate takes on a new adventure as she joins Wisconsin Public Radio. Today is her last day at Red River Radio. Certainly our loss is the Badger State’s gain. I wish her the best. I know many of those listening do as well.

Thanks, Kate. 

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