KERA Hires Veteran Newsroom Head Known For His Mentorship, Building Connections With Underserved Communities

Gilbert Bailon is a former 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 editor-in-chief of KERA News was announced on Tuesday. He will run a newsroom that serves the nation’s fifth-largest media market.

Sylvia Komatsu, KERA’s Director of Content and Diversity, said she was thrilled to welcome Bailon as KERA’s new Editor-in-Chief.

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

Nico Leone, President and CEO of KERA, said Bailon will help meet the rapidly changing needs of KERA’s growing audience.

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

Bailon is currently editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He oversaw the Post-Dispatch’s coverage of the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and the social unrest that followed. The Post-Dispatch won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for News Photography and was a Pulitzer finalist for editorial writing for his coverage after 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 across Texas is an exciting professional opportunity,” said Bailon. “We will build on a legacy of exceptional journalism and strive to reach even wider audiences with expanded coverage and innovations.”

Help others

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

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

The National Press Foundation awarded Bailon the Benjamin C. Bradlee Editor of the Year Award in 2014 for his leadership after the shooting of Michael Brown. the the judges had this to say About Bailon:

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

Journalists who have worked with Bailon say he has promoted diversity in the newsroom throughout his career. He is a former president of the NAHJ.

Texas ties

Bailon’s ties to Texas run deep.

He covered night police and the courts and also worked as a general 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 Dallas Morning News team. He worked there for more than two decades.

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

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

Bailon joined the Post-Dispatch in 2007 as its editorial page editor and served as its managing editor for nearly a decade.

Main news from KERA

Bailon joins a growing press team at KERA.

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

KERA is the home station of The Texas Newsroom – a one-of-a-kind journalistic collaboration between NPR and Texas public radio stations.

Q&A with Gilbert Bailon

What excites you about leading KERA’s press team?

KERA platforms have long been respected for combining local and national coverage for people who seek thoughtful media coverage and dialogue that engages the community. Additionally, I have already worked with some of KERA’s staff that I know to be highly skilled. I was an avid consumer of KERA News when I previously worked for DFW.

Throughout your career, you have emphasized the importance of reaching underserved communities. What would you like to say to people in North Texas who feel that issues important to them have been ignored?

In many markets, underserved communities are covered, but often misses the full breadth of those communities in their broader context and nuances. Underserved communities…deserve the time and effort of newsrooms to reflect them more fully. Historical context and sourcing are key depending on 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 in-depth media coverage. Different media platforms reach different audiences and help people understand each other better. KERA is a bridge to increase understanding between many diverse people who share geography and embrace different viewpoints, but have intertwined destinies.

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

All news organizations that adopt factual and well-researched coverage are criticized and must overcome misinformation or blatant political advocacy. Consumers are inundated with many forms of media following them day and night on their devices. Trusted news outlets like KERA must continue to respect their ethical moorings and distinguish their coverage from less reputable content on social media and news outlets that communicate with an overt political bent or a desire to undermine constructive community dialogue.

Talk a bit about your ties 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, most of my career in the press. The area has grown and developed in the 14 years since I moved to St. Louis, but 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’ve visited frequently over the years and kept a pulse on local happenings in my former hometown.

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