Author: Beth Bobbitt

Ben Downs

Ben Downs

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions
Round Rock, TX

Ben Downs is the Vice President and General Manager of Bryan Broadcasting in Bryan-College Station, along with being an operating partner for the stations. 

During the intervening years, he has operated two statewide groups of broadcast stations in Texas. 

Sonance Broadcasting owned stations in Lubbock, Midland, Killeen, and Waco.  He also managed stations in Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Tyler. 

In addition, Downs has served as Chairman of the Texas Association of Broadcasters twice! 

In 2010, TAB honored him with the “Broadcaster of the Year” Award. 

He also served as a Board member of the National Association of Broadcasters and was part of the NAB Legislative Leadership program.

Ben Downs

Catch Ben at the following:

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Oscar Rodriguez

Oscar Rodriguez

Kalahari Resorts & Conventions
Round Rock, TX

Oscar Rodriguez serves as President of the Texas Association of Broadcasters, a statewide, non-profit advocacy organization for the state’s 1,200+ free, over-the-air local radio and television stations.

A graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, Rodriguez began his career in public service as an Assistant Press Secretary to Gov. Mark White from 1984 to 1987.

He then served a seven-year stint as a legislative liaison for the Texas Education Agency before joining TAB in 1994.

He is a native Texan who grew up in McAllen and has lived in Austin since 1981.

Oscar Rodriguez

Catch Oscar at the following:

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Sherry Williford

2024 Educator of the Year

(Published August 2024)

For 31 years, Sherry Williford served as faculty advisor to the Stephen F. Austin State University (SFA) campus Radio station and was a highly active and devoted member of the Texas Association of Broadcast Educators (TABE).

Sherry Williford

Sherry is a Past President of TABE having served in that role in 2015.

Sherry started her lengthy career at SFA during the Fall 1992 semester, when she was hired to serve as the faculty advisor to the campus station and teach broadcast courses.

For more than three decades, Sherry nurtured and oversaw the daily operations of KSAU-FM (now KAXM-FM).

Her dedication to the campus station required her to selflessly work evenings, overnights, and weekends to ensure that the radio station operated within FCC regulations.

She played an integral role in helping to improve the Radio broadcast facilities, so Lumberjacks were prepared to compete in the marketplace upon graduation.

Sherry shared her knowledge of and love of the Radio industry to thousands of students in the classroom, in the Radio station, and on live broadcast remotes around the city of Nacogdoches and throughout East Texas.

Prior to arriving at SF A, Sherry worked 10 years in radio as Traffic Director at the 100,000-watt FM radio station, KASU, in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Prior to her stint in the radio industry, she was the Production Director at KAIT-TV, the ABC affiliate, in Jonesboro.

Prior to arriving at SFA, Sherry was a full-time instructor at Arkansas State University, her alma mater, where, in 1990, she earned her master’s degree in mass communication and, in 1980, she earned a bachelor’s degree in Radio/TV, with a minor in drama.

Her legacy in both academia and the broadcast industry will be the thousands of students she mentored, taught, and counseled over 30 years.

Upon the announcement of her retirement, one of her former students aptly described her career: “Mrs. Williford is the absolute best. Definitely a professor I will always remember as someone who had a huge impact in my college career, as well as my professional career.”

The Texas broadcast industry is most fortunate to have had Sherry in the classroom for 31 years preparing individuals to work in media markets not only around the Lone Star state, but also around the nation.

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Jim Colley

2024 Associate of the Year

(Published August 2024)

TAB truly values the participation of all the Associate Members whose products and services help Texas Radio and Television stations with all their day-to-day operations.

From contract engineers to tower and transmitter manufacturers, to software and equipment resellers – Associate Members make the Texas broadcast industry thrive.

Jim Colley

Jim Colley, Regional Sales Mgr./Southeastern USA, has been with RCS for more than 30 years. In all that time, Jim has almost NEVER missed a TAB Convention & Trade Show.

“Jim is one of the most beloved vendors in Texas Radio!  His expertise and passion have helped scores of clients streamline their operations for and enhance their programming while benefiting the bottom line,” said TAB President Oscar Rodriguez.

At the age of 14, Jim began his broadcast career at WTBF Troy, Ala.

After high school and an active-duty tour with the Air Force, he made noted stops at Radio stations in North Carolina and Alabama – always focusing on programming and on-air duties.

Eventually, Jim decided to go the sales/management route.

Colonial Broadcasting hired him as the GSM for a new country station – WLWI-FM in Montgomery, Ala – and then he was promoted to Senior Sales VP/GM of the company’s second station.

He took WOWW-107 FM from a start-up to the #1 ratings position in less than a year.

During his tenure, the station received Billboard Magazine’s Station of the Year, as well as awards for Personalities and Program Director of the Year.

Jim took his programming and sales background to help the design team at Datacount for development of the DARTS Traffic Software – and he and his wife Lora marketed the product for several years.

When he joined RCS in 1993, he also became active in TAB.

RCS is the World’s Largest Broadcast Software Company with products in thousands of Radio and TV stations, music channels, cable companies, ad agencies, satellite networks and streaming stations worldwide.  

The company invented music scheduling on computers, opening its doors in 1979 with the very first version of the legendary Selector.

In the last decade, RCS has reinvented the way broadcasters approach their craft with the introduction of new and updated software services.

A hallmark of RCS from the beginning was the strategy to base product improvements on feedback from its loyal customers and experienced power users.

“Jim’s love for Radio and profound respect for our industry’s mission has set a standard for all industry vendors to emulate and TAB is honored to recognize his dedication and decades of leadership,” Rodriguez said.

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Josh Hinkle

2024 Jason Hightower Award for Broadcast Excellence

(Published August 2024)

TAB proudly presents the Jason Hightower Award to recognize individuals with at least two years’ experience in the broadcast industry who have demonstrated a proficiency for enterprise and innovation in servicing their stations’ audience and communities.

Josh Hinkle

The awards are named in honor of TAB 2009 Chairman Jason Hightower, owner/operator of KMOO Mineola, who passed away in March 2009 after battling brain cancer. He was 37.

Josh Hinkle is KXAN’s Director of Investigations & Innovation

“Josh Hinkle is the creative and organizational force behind KXAN’s successful investigative team. Not only does he produce high-impact, compelling investigations of his own, he leads a team of 10 people digging into the complex issues facing folks living around Austin and Texans statewide,” said News Director Haley Cihock.

“Josh is also an incredible ambassador for our company and investigative journalism, constantly seeking to foster innovation and elevation of the field.”

He leads KXAN-TV’s 12-person duPont and Murrow Award-winning investigative team on multiple platforms.

Last year, he led a full newsroom effort to investigate the state’s TxTag system, driven by the #1 viewer complaint.

The results were as meaningful as the project was innovative.

View project

That’s far from his first high-impact project, though.

In 2018, the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) selected “Fallen,” an investigative documentary Josh produced about fatal police shootings and officers’ mental health training, as the recipient of the national Sigma Delta Chi Award for Best Documentary.

The same year, “DENIED,” an investigative project he produced about police transparency during in-custody death cases, won an Emmy for investigative series.

In 2019, he launched the station’s first podcast series, “Catalyst,” which accompanies the multi-platform investigations “Mayberry Texas” about flaws in the state’s missing persons system, “A History of Mass Violence” about four decades of mass shootings in Texas, and “Dead & Undone” about people dying in police custody – the latter of which earned an Emmy for journalistic enterprise and was recognized nationally with a special citation among the News Leaders Association’s First Amendment Awards in 2021.

“Mayberry Texas” was also a national finalist for an Online Journalism Award and Emmy winner for journalistic enterprise in 2019. The inaugural season of

“Catalyst” won a National Edward R. Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital New Association (RTDNA) in the podcast category in 2020, while a collection of “KXAN Investigates” digital projects Josh led also won a national Murrow in the multimedia category that same year.

One recent season – part of a collaboration with ClearHealthCosts – provides expert analysis for KXAN’s “Medical Debt Lawsuits” project, which sparked a new law in 2023 requiring greater billing transparency from Texas hospitals.

That same year, the project won a National Murrow for “Excellence in Innovation.”

In 2020, Josh and his team also debuted a digital-first investigation called “Locked in Limbo,” which highlights mental competency challenges among Texas inmates.

It was honored with two Emmys that year for investigative series and journalistic enterprise and was named a Scripps Howard Award national finalist and a Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting national semi-finalist.

In addition to its own podcast season, that project featured a solutions journalism approach to storytelling – a concept Josh has helped implement at KXAN and Nexstar through initiatives like 2019’s “Save Our Students: Solutions for Wellness & Safety” – which was the national recipient of Mental Health America’s Media Award and was a finalist for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Leadership Foundation’s Service to America Award – and 2020’s “Pandemic PASS or FAIL: Solutions for Education Equity” – a nationwide project focused on the coronavirus and its disproportionate impact on some students.

Both projects were collaborations with the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN).

In 2021, Josh and the investigative team continued their research into mental health issues in Texas jails, launching “Mental Competency Consequences” after receiving a national fellowship and partnering with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.

The project highlighted untracked deaths on the state hospital waitlist, prompting officials to begin re-examining how they collect information and the impact of a record backlog.

It was honored with a National Murrow in 2022 for “Excellence in Innovation,” along with two other wins – another collection of “KXAN Investigates” projects in the digital category and an update episode to the fourth season of “Catalyst” in the podcast category, which featured Josh testifying before state legislators about law enforcement transparency challenges.

That same year, a multi-platform collaboration, “Justice for Some,” Josh produced with the Texas Observer to examine public corruption won an Emmy for journalistic enterprise.

If that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Josh is also executive producer and host of “State of Texas,” a weekly program – and companion podcast – focused on the Texas Legislature and elections, seen in 14 markets statewide.

His work on the show has been honored three times with the national Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Television Political Journalism in 2015 for coverage of the women’s health debate, in 2017 for an exposé on border security funding, and in 2019 for an investigation into financial questions surrounding Texas’ oil and gas regulators.

The show has also earned 10 Emmys for politics and public affairs programming.

Josh is committed to fostering the journalism industry, and to the ideals of a free press.

He serves on the board of directors for both IRE and FOIFT, the former of which he also currently serves as Vice President.

He has chaired IRE’s training committee and currently chairs its member services committee, along with leading a recurring master class on managing investigators.

Additionally, he sits on SJN’s advisory council and the board of governors for the Lone Star Emmys, teaches as a faculty member for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) News Video Workshop, serves as a journalist of color fellowship mentor for the Maynard Institute and is a member of SPJ, NPPA and the Association of LGBTQ+ Journalists (NLGJA).

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Britt Milstead

2024 Jason Hightower Award for Broadcast Excellence

(Published August 2024)

TAB proudly presents the Jason Hightower Award to recognize individuals with at least two years’ experience in the broadcast industry who have demonstrated a proficiency for enterprise and innovation in servicing their stations’ audience, advertisers, and communities.

Britt Milstead

The awards are named in honor of TAB 2009 Chairman Jason Hightower, owner/operator of KMOO Mineola, who passed away in March 2009 after battling brain cancer. He was 37.

“When I read the description of the Jason Hightower award, it screams Britt Milstead,” said KFDX-TV General Manager Wayne Reed.

Britt Milstead started at KFDX-TV on April 10,1995 as an Account Executive.

“He was fresh out of college and green as a gourd. He dug in, worked hard, asked a LOT of questions, created and nurtured relationships, and became very successful,” Reed said.

In 2003, he was promoted to LSM where he began to see the bigger picture.

His managers and staff realized one of Britt’s greatest strengths is his creativity.

Britt loves to brainstorm with AEs and clients and produce creative concepts.

He also has a great eye for video, lighting, transitions, and graphics, in order to get the most out of a :15 or :30 second spot for a client.

In 2013, the station promoted him to Director of Sales leading a sales team of 10 AEs, four sales managers and a digital media manager.

“Britt is always willing to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty. He does an excellent job of keeping morale at a high level, and we all know that is very hard to do in this industry,” Reed said.

He has served on several non-profit boards and currently serves on the Ranch Days Committee for the Hands to Hands Community Fund Board and the Priddy Foundation Board.

He has helped grow many businesses and organizations, both non-profit and for-profit.

Britt regularly speaks to Marketing, Mass Communication and Journalism classes to promote the “Boots on the Ground” opportunities at a local Television station.

“Britt is truly my ‘Right Hand Man.’ I could not operate at a high level without him. He is passionate and dedicated to our work, our mission and our industry,” Reed said.

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Phil Brooks

2024 George Marti Award for Engineering Excellence

(Published August 2024)

Television stations simply cannot operate without a robust technological infrastructure.

Phil Brooks, Engineering Director for KRIS-TV Corpus Christi, continues to make sure that station – and many other Scripps-owned stations – are built for success.

Phil Brooks

Phil joined the station 2021 and oversaw the complete rebuilding of the station’s physical plant.

It’s an understatement to say Phil has had his hands full since joining the company.

In addition to KRIS-TV (NBC), the facility operations include KAJA-TV (Telemundo), KDF-TV (Independent) and managing SagamoreHill-owned station KZTV-TV (CBS).

From transmitter and towers to master control, production rooms and sets, Phil has completely rebuilt the infrastructure for all the stations. 

In 2023, Broadcasting + Cable presented Phil with their “Unsung Hero Award,” recognizing his efforts to spearhead multiple projects including building two brand new sets, two brand new control rooms, new field equipment for MMJ’s and new vehicles.

Those two new controls rooms are using a production system designed by Phil himself.

Corpus Christi was the first (and only) station in the world to use it.

“Our Corpus Christi team spent all of 2023 beta testing and developing the system, with near-daily communication with developers in Europe to write code for the software to address needs, news ideas and fix bugs,” said News Director Jim Bob Breazeale.

The system is so effective and easy to use, plus far more cost-efficient than previous options, that it is being placed in all stations across the E.W. Scripps company in 2024-2025.

He also built a new mobile production tool to facilitate the “Thursday Night High School Football” broadcasts and added multiple ISP News/Traffic cameras throughout Coastal Bend.

Phil is the driving force behind innovating an easy-to-use production control room that can seamlessly switch from live, linear TV to modular/OTT content.

In addition, his leadership skills have created a motivated, committed, capable and service-driven engineering team that is respected and appreciated by the staff.

“In today’s broadcast environment, where technology plays a substantial role in all aspects of our field, a creative, capable, and self-driven Chief of Engineering is an amazing asset.  Phil’s leadership skills permeated the operation and made the rest of the team better,” Breazeale said.

“I can think of no one better to receive the George Marti Award than Phil Brooks. Not only is he the smartest person I’ve ever worked with, but he is also an amazing human being and a great leader.”

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Coreena Hazelett

2024 Radio Broadcaster of the Year

(Published August 2024)

Coreena Hazelett began her career in radio in 1992 with the iconic John Barger at KRIO/KONO San Antonio.

As a single mother of three boys, Coreena was Office Manager and handled AR/AP. 

Coreena Hazelett

“Coreena Hazelett has proven again-and-again that intelligent, good-spirited people don’t necessarily need a degree or a decade of experience to succeed and become effective leaders and a credit to our world,” Barger said.

In 1998, Coreena moved to Waterman Broadcasting’s KTSA/KTFM as Traffic Director. 

Seeing the income earned by salespeople, she applied for a sales position with General Manager Joe Ernest and Sales Management Consultant Rex Tackett.

“I counseled her not to get into sales…that time did not permit her to be trained…that there was a ‘high mortality’ rate of sales wannabes…that she would be out of a job,” Tackett said.  “She persisted. So, I gave her a few books on selling Radio and access to RAB. She read them all and more.  She was determined to succeed,”

“Coreena is a remarkable person. In 50 years, I’ve never seen anyone have greater success learning and starting from ‘zero’.  She is ‘self-taught’ more than anyone I’ve ever met,” Tackett said.

“Coreena Hazelett is a credit to the radio industry. Her ‘no nonsense’ approach to broadcast advertising sales and management has provided Success (with a capitol ‘S’) for both clients and stations alike.”

Within one year, Coreena was the top biller. In two more years, she was Sales Manager.  And, in that position, she survived the transition of KTSA/KTFM from Waterman to CBS Radio to Border Media to Alpha Media. 

Ranch Radio Group’s (RRG) Mark Grubbs made two attempts to hire Coreena. Once in 2011 and again in 2015. 

“My offers were met with a resounding, ‘No, Thank You.’ In 2018, I tried again…with the same opening for Sales Manager.  Thankfully, on July 2, 2018, Coreena joined Ranch Radio Group And, that’s when my life changed for the better,” Grubbs said.

In December 2019, Coreena was promoted to Vice President & General Manager. 

She embraced all aspects of engineering and programming along with her mastery of sales and administration. She led her team to reduce a one-million-dollar debt within four years of her hire.

In 2021, RRG promoted Coreena to President and Chief Operations Officer. 

With Coreena at the helm, RRG successfully launched is fifth radio station, “The Raptor – Classic Rock.” 

Other successes/milestones, under her leadership, include “Shop, Stay and Play” and “Hill Country Strong” (two Covid-19 economic rebound initiatives) and Hill District Stock Show Radiothon.

This Radiothon fundraising event (over the past three years) along with RRGs donations of scholarships has provided 4-H & FFA students in area counties in excess of $133,000. 

In 2022-23, under Coreena’s leadership and commitment to maintaining our “Debt Free” status, a $300,000 building expansion was paid for in cash – all the while establishing a six figure Emergency Fund for the company as well as a Quarterly Employee Profit Sharing program.

Coreena has experienced, fostered and provided a path for her team members to harvest the Radio industry’s promise of a viable, profitable and secure future.

Coreena’s 32 years in broadcast Radio have taken her from single mother of three boys and bookkeeper for John Barger to President/COO of the leading Hill Country’s Ranch Radio Group. 

Coreena Hazelett is an exemplary role model of a successful Radio broadcaster and a true example of TAB’s Broadcaster of the Year.

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Mark Masepohl

2024 Pioneer Broadcaster of the Year Award

(Published August 2024)

Mark Masepohl’s distinguished broadcasting career spans more than 40 years from the Southern borders and ports of Houston to the Northern boundary of the Red River in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Mark began his career in Radio and his role now includes Audio, Television and Digital.

Mark Masepohl

He currently serves as the President/Regional General Manager for TelevisionUnivision – overseeing seven markets across the nation.

He remains steady in his belief of the responsibility of media and the investment of his service to all media platforms.

Mark has worked tirelessly to advance broadcasting, embraced emerging technologies, fostered strategic partnerships, and championed industry-wide initiatives that have propelled broadcasting into the digital age.

Furthermore, his advocacy for fair representation of diverse communities in broadcasting, particularly in ensuring accurate reporting by Nielsen, has been instrumental in advancing inclusivity in the industry.

He drives community service by having his teams with “boots on the ground,” serving local Hispanics.

Mark’s resume extends beyond broadcasting and includes many accomplishments related to his faith, family and dedication to the political process – importance of education, advocacy and community.

Univision DFW was among the first industry partners to sign on with Dallas Independent School District collegiate academy L.G. Pinkston H-Tech.

Univision has provided insights to students about the different careers within broadcasting through tours, workplace workshops, and activation experiences.

More than 200 Pinkston students have graduated with high school degrees, college associate degrees and work experience.

Through his advocacy, thousands of lives have been transformed.

He leads with purpose, authenticity and resilience.

Through his active engagement, he provides others’ opportunities to continue their journey of growth and learning.

Serving on many boards, inclusive of the Nielsen Audio Advisory Board and the Texas Association of Broadcasters, he is committed to growing and developing industry standards and policies to benefit business and the impact in local communities.

His determination and passion for broadcasting coincides with the true definition of a Pioneer: (verb) – develop or be the first to use or apply; to explore. 

Mark Masepohl exemplifies this in everything he does and has done throughout his long career.

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John Barger

2024 Lifetime Achievement Award

(Published August 2024)

Co-founder of Clear Channel Communications, the world’s largest radio group, and developer of the news-talk radio format in Texas, John Barger’s 30-plus years of radio operations in San Antonio began in 1975, including management and ownership at differing times of WOAI-AM, KAJA-FM, KONO-AM/FM, KAHL-AM, KRIO-FM, KMFR-FM, plus stations in Victoria and Pearsall.

John Barger

In addition, John was co-founder of CapStar Communications, the largest radio group in Texas, later merged into his original company, Clear Channel.

John was born in Galveston, raised in College Station, and received two degrees from UT-Austin (BBA and JD).

He was a top-rated disc jockey at KNOW-AM in Austin and served as general counsel for legendary Dallas radio operator, Gordon McLendon.

Later he was station manager of KRLD-AM in Dallas and executive producer for the Dallas Cowboys football network.

John’s industry activities included serving as founder of the Class A Broadcasters Association (1986), president of the Texas Association of Broadcasters (1986-87) and director of the National Association of Broadcasters (1994-2006).

He was honored by TAB as its Pioneer Broadcaster of the Year in 1997, Broadcaster of the Year in 2012 and received TAB’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2024.

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