Libby Averyt has never been one to shy away from a good conversation. “The constant is storytelling, the need for storytellers is always there,” Averyt said. A career journalist and former editor, publisher and president of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, she is intimately familiar with the art of opening up with someone through a few carefully crafted, considerate questions. Along with a team of producers at local public radio station KEDT, Averyt sought to provide a different medium of storytelling, holding hopes of cultivating a new sense of empathetic listening in local media.
Originally the brainchild of KEDT producers Don Dunlap and Jeff Felts, “South Texas Leaders,” now in its fifth season, was always a vision of programming with Averyt ideally at the helm. “I had served on the KEDT Board and it’s a small town when it comes to media, so we all knew each other,” Averyt said, revisiting the first conversations on what was then an aspirational concept for programming. “They asked me if I’d be willing to host a show on leadership.” Between balancing a full-time job as an editor at the Caller-Times and raising two young children, Averyt passed on the hosting gig. Nearly a decade later, the stars would align anyway.
A five-camera studio production, “South Texas Leaders” is a traditional, no-frills interview-focused program centered on conversations between Averyt and various community figures who create a positive impact in and around the Coastal Bend. Tuning in, you’ll find Averyt seated across from her guest against a black backdrop, distraction-free and designed to lend focus to the subjects themselves as they delve deep into what makes an individual a leader. While for some, this might mean where they went to university or where they began their careers, for Averyt often it means asking about family figures who brought leaders to where they are, friendships and ideas that have sustained them or even moments of doubt that brought a change in perspective.
“We want it to feel real,” Averyt said of the experience conducting these in-depth interviews, spanning over 60 guests since the pilot in 2019. “As local journalism has changed, we’re filling the gap of extended storytelling. We try to pick leaders who might surprise you a little bit. I want to tell the viewers that a leader doesn’t fit a certain cookie-cutter mold.”
The list of guests has run the gamut from elected officials to nonprofit leaders to educators of all ages, backgrounds and disciplines. The goal of the interview stays consistent: human connection.
“It is important to show as much compassion for each other as we can,” Averyt said, touching on her desire to reach across aisles, to get to the heart of what makes us all similar and valuable. “People get too swept up in positions, but we’re all just here to do the best we can. Everyone likes to be treated as a person.”
For those looking to treat themselves to a publicly funded master class in leadership and storytelling, “South Texas Leaders” streams on KEDT through the PBS app, or live on Fridays at 7:30 p.m. during their regular season.
Contact: pbs.org | kedt.org