Charles Michael Ray Named SDPB News Director
South Dakota Public Broadcasting (SDPB) is pleased to announce Charles Michael Ray has been named SDPB News Director. Ray has been Assignment Editor since December 2015, when former News Director Cara Hetland was promoted to SDPB Radio Director. Ray’s new title is effective immediately.
Ray began as a Radio Journalist with SDPB at age 19 in 1992. Since then, he has primarily covered western South Dakota on topics of politics, disasters, environment and social issues for SDPB and National Public Radio (NPR).
SDPB: Where are you from originally?
Charles Michael Ray: “I was born in Rapid City, SD. I grew up in the Black Hills. I have great-grandparents on both sides who migrated to South Dakota and homesteaded here. I still have so much to learn about this place.”
SDPB: How did you get your start in radio journalism?
CMR: “As a freshman at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology (SDSM&T), I became manager of the KTEQ college radio station. I was hired by SDPB shortly thereafter.”
SDPB: When and in what capacity did you join SDPB?
CMR: “In 1992 I landed the job as a part-time reporter for SDPB while I was squeaking my way through SDSM&T. (Director of Content) Larry Rohrer hired me. I was just a college kid, 19 years old, more or less an intern. I think I wore rollerblades to that first interview. Reflecting back, I’m glad there was no social media back then to capture that event.”
SDPB: What challenges and opportunities do you see ahead as News Director at SDPB?
CMR: “We have an amazing team of reporters stationed across the state. We are working to build that team and constantly improve our coverage. We aim to add to the dialogue on all things South Dakota and to keep state residents informed.”
SDPB: What makes the work of public radio unique in South Dakota?
CMR: “We are a statewide multiplatform network. We use our resources to keep citizens up to date on everything from the state legislature to the state high school rodeo finals to the Black Hills Pow-Wow. I think there is a marketing slogan that ‘SDPB is South Dakota.’ In the case of news coverage this is true – our reporters and producers live here and care about this place. We are keen on providing coverage that informs and supports citizenship. Democracy requires an informed populace. This is one goal we keep in mind.”
SDPB: How can public radio remain responsive to its audience in the age of multiplatform news reporting and gathering?
CMR: “We’re on Twitter, Facebook, and SDPB.org. Plus we are a statewide radio and TV network and on emerging platforms. We encourage citizens to reach out to us on social media and we also share all of our coverage on social media. If you miss a program on the radio, check us out on Twitter or at listen.SDPB.org.”
SDPB: In your tenure at SDPB thus far, what are some favorite and/or most profound moments or interviews you’ve experienced?
CMR: “There are too many to count. I’ve interviewed Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota elders from across South Dakota. Many of them have now passed. Their wisdom is deeply humbling and inspirational. As a young reporter I interviewed Governor George Mickelson and helped cover the story of the plane crash and tragic loss to the state. I was in Hill City when federal officials confiscated the T-Rex named Sue and I followed that story for all the years after. The 1997 blizzards in the northern part of South Dakota helped show me the resilience of rural folks – the 2011 floods, and 2013 Storm Atlas did the same. I had a great interview with Jane Goodall when she was in Rapid City, and as a cub reporter I fired a few questions at Carl Sagan during his press conference here. The high profile interviews are fun, but the most awesome and memorable stories are on seemingly average South Dakotans who do absolutely extraordinary things. These are the stories I find most rewarding and inspiring. As SDPB News Director I’ll now do my best to use my experience to support and empower the news team I work with."
Ray has been awarded 26 regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and was awarded two national Murrow awards, in 2003 and 2008. He received a national Scripps Howard News Service Award for his feature “Surviving on the Stream: A Look at Native American Homelessness in Rapid City, SD.”
Ray has been recognized by the South Dakota Associated Press with over 40 First Place or Honorable Mentions since 1993. He was also a 2006 Finalist for a Livingston Award for Young Journalists for his half-hour documentary examining the impact of climate change on the Missouri River.
From April 2001 to May 2002, Ray took a brief leave-of-absence from SDPB to work as a freelance radio journalist in Prague, Czech Republic, where he filed stories for Free Speech Radio News, Common Ground, Democracy Now, Making Contact, and Independent Native News.