Texas Week With Rick Casey Canceled by KLRN-TV

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KLRN Host Rick Casey speaks to the 2015 mayor candidates at KLRN. Photo by Scott Ball.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

KLRN-TV host Rick Casey

Texas Week with Rick Casey, the signature weekly news and public affairs program broadcast by KLRN-TV for the past seven years, will make its final on-air appearance Thursday, Sept. 14, according to an internal memo sent to staff by CEO and President Arthur Rojas Emerson on Aug. 30.

Emerson confirmed the news in a Wednesday interview with the Rivard Report.

“It’s a real blow, I’m very sad about that news,” he said. “At issue is the lack of funding for the program. We are out of money needed to produce the program and we have no new commitments.”

The weekly program, which for most of its run was broadcast Friday evenings and repeated Sunday, and posted on KLRN’s website, costs about $144,000 a year to produce, according to Emerson. That sum includes a modest salary paid to Casey.

Texas Week includes a weekly segment with the Austin-based nonprofit Texas Tribune that often has featured its founder and CEO Evan Smith or one of its editors or reporters. With the demise of Casey’s program, San Antonio will be one of the largest markets in the country in the nonprofit Corporation for Public Broadcasting’s network without a regularly scheduled local news and public affairs program.

“The program was launched by my predecessor, Bill Moll, with three-year funding commitments from three individuals,” Emerson said. “After three years we won a grant that kept us going, and then we did a function with [RK group founder] Rosemary Kowalski that was successful. All the while we have been looking for new funders, but without success.”

Emerson’s Aug. 30 memo to staff echoes those fundraising challenges:

Dear KLRN staff,

We’ve been in conversations since July with Rick Casey regarding funding for “Texas Week.” At issue is that funds for this program will be completely depleted in September. Past support had come from individuals and grants that chose not to renew.

Sponsors and ad agencies inform us that clients prefer to not be associated with public affairs programs, and across the PBS System programs of this nature have been a financial challenge.

Additional fundraising efforts included on-air packages that feature “Texas Week” along with all our news and public affairs programs. We produced an announcement with Rick encouraging financial support and a tag following each program inviting viewers to become patrons.

In order to keep Texas Week on the air we offered Rick an alternative pay structure that is in harmony with other talent fees.

At this time Rick has decided the alternative pay structure does not work for him. “Texas Week” will conclude production in September. We shared with Rick that we have no plans to replace him with another host. The decision to end production of “Texas Week” is solely based on funding.

Having “Texas Week with Rick Casey” has been good for KLRN in that it offers our viewers local public affairs programing, and we continue to explore ideas to keep Rick associated with the station providing that costs are recovered.

Arthur

Emerson said he has had success raising funds to repair and upgrade the KLRN building at 501 Broadway St. near the corner of McCullough Avenue that houses the station’s broadcast studios, as part of a larger capital campaign now underway.

“We received a $500,000 commitment from the McCombs Family Foundation earlier this year to replace some equipment in our building, which still needs a new roof, and it is now named the Charline McCombs Media Center,” Emerson said.

“Listen, if you can come to my rescue and help raise new funding, we will kiss you and put Rick Casey right back on the air,” Emerson added. “Rick Casey brought real luster to KLRN when he returned to San Antonio seven years ago.”

Rick Casey (right) interviews San Antonio River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott (center) and Assistant General Manager Stephen Graham (left) for Texas Week with Rick Casey on Sept. 1, 2017 "Prepping for Megastorms."

Courtesy KLRN / Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)

Journalist Rick Casey (right) interviews San Antonio River Authority General Manager Suzanne Scott (center) and Assistant General Manager Stephen Graham (left) for Texas Week with Rick Casey’s “Prepping for Megastorms” on Sept. 1.

Asked why he thought he and the station’s development staff were unable to secure funding for KLRN’s showcase local program, Emerson  said, “The sense I gather is that news and public affairs programs that from time to time have a political nature cause sponsors to shy away.”

Emerson was involved in a highly controversial incident in February when he prevented broadcast of Casey’s “Last Word” commentary that was critical of  U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio). That decision, first reported by San Antonio Express-News columnist Gilbert Garcia, led to a backlash against Emerson and a wave of support for Casey’s editorial independence.

Even if the news of the program’s pending cancellation leads to new funding, Casey is looking to the next chapter of life as a journalist and writer, he said in an interview Wednesday. His distinguished journalistic career has spanned four decades, including writing stints with the National Catholic Reporter, the Seattle Times, and a 24-year run as a leading columnist for the San Antonio Light, which closed in 1993, the San Antonio Express-News, and the Houston Chronicle, three Texas dailies owned by the Hearst Corporation.

“I would love to see the program continue beyond me,” Casey said Wednesday. “But once you’ve set a retirement date, you’ve retired. Next week will be the last show. It will be my last word. If there is any new support for continuing the show, I would support that, but I have some writing projects in mind – a book – and it won’t get done if I have other things to do.”

Casey, a 1968 graduate of St. Mary’s University, was one of the most influential and widely read journalists of his generation in San Antonio and South Texas. Earlier in his career, the Kansas City, Mo.-based National Catholic Reporter hired him to spend one year living in a camper, John Steinbeck-style, traveling the United States’ back roads in search of stories for the magazine’s national audience of Catholics.

When Carlos Guerra was hired as the first high-profile Mexican-American columnist at the San Antonio Light, Casey became his first editor while also writing his own column. In that role he helped Guerra develop his trademark voice for the hundreds of thousands of people in the city and region who until then were unaccustomed to seeing the work of a Hispanic columnist presented on page one.

Guerra died in 2010.

Casey and Guerra, along with Light columnists Buck Harvey and Susan Yerkes, were the only four journalists from the Light hired by the Express-News in the immediate aftermath of one of the nation’s last newspaper wars, one that ended with the closure of the Light in 1993 and acquisition of the Express-News by Hearst from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Casey retired from his position as a columnist for the Houston Chronicle in 2011. He and his wife Kristen returned to San Antonio and their life in King William where they had previously lived and where they remain a familiar couple.

Casey’s program that airs Thursday at 7 p.m. will feature a one-on-one interview with UTSA student and Dreamer Andrea Fernandez. His Last Word segment to close the show, ironically, credits Rep. Lamar Smith with “changing his tune” on his long denial of climate change.

The final program of Texas Week With Rick Casey will be broadcast Thursday, Sept. 14.

21 thoughts on “Texas Week With Rick Casey Canceled by KLRN-TV

  1. A very sad day. It is hard to imagine that they cannot come up with the funding. $144,000 per year seems like a bargain for such a quality program. It was a regular part of our Friday nights and we built our dinners out around Texas Week. Our family donates regularly to KLRN because of programs like this. We do wish to thank Rick for keeping us informed for these many years and wish him well.

  2. The loss of Texas Week and Rick Casey is a Real tragedy in this era of Fake news.
    Where else can we have an intelligent, in-depth discussion of local news? We will miss this show and the print version of Rick’s commentary in the Express.

  3. I have always enjoyed reading and or watching Rick…..but his constant attacking the right….has sent him with his bags packing.

  4. “The sense I gather is that news and public affairs programs that from time to time have a political nature cause sponsors to shy away.” ~Arthur Emerson

    We all remember that Arthur Emerson spiked a story that reflected truthfully on Lamar Smith back in February of this year. Hell, even the New York Times covered it. Refresh yourself here:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/17/business/media/trump-era-media-censorship.html?mcubz=3&_r=0

    If the Emerson team is so lame that they can’t come up with $144,000 to keep this top-notch, local, public affairs programming on the air, it may be time for him to retire, too.

    Vaya con dios, Rick. We look forward to your next chapters. We shall miss your voice in local media.

  5. This is worse than I thought. Friday night was always my night for great public interest TV. First Bill Moyers disappeared, then more and more programs were replaced with those dreadful “dramas”. Now the very meat of the Friday night line-up is gone.
    I am a sustainer and was considering raising my amount. Now I am not so sure.
    I hope that Rick can go on being published in the newspaper.
    As for Mr Anderson, I think you are not brave enough to defend our PBS station again the radicals.

  6. I am appalled that the Board of Directors of KLRN would allow Rick Casey to be fired for political reasons. It is almost impossible to believe that Mr. Emerson and his development department were unable to raise $144,000 per year to enable a valuable and respected host to continue on air.
    KLRN cannot be “my TV station” when it cancels one of the most informative programs in its lineup.

  7. This ” News” is very sad for all of South Texas. The end of an era of honest, cutting edge, independent and provocative reporting. Mr. Casey has had his pulse on the city for decades and has always been an advocate for working with folks “on both sides of the aisle “.
    I never knew who the original funders were who helped get ” This Week with Rick Casey” on the air. Many thanks to that group for making this fabulous program possible.
    Thanks to Rick for his insightful and dynamic presentations. Every program touched us and made us all think a little bit more on issues affecting us in SA or around the state.
    I am not sure what the salaries are for Arthur Emerson and other senior staff members. I would like to see the Board of Directors make some adjustments to the salary structure of management in order to keep this program on the air.
    Possibly Mr. Emerson could look at an Alternative Pay Schedule.
    Good Luck to Rick and thanks for years of service to South Texas….

  8. Meh. Public broadcasting sealed its own fate when it became determined to be a left-of-center mouthpiece to the exclusion of other voices. For those of us who tend leftward, it can seem sad to see so many once-great programs end or lose funding, but it’s not like these voices are going silent. If the voice is good enough, people will pay for it—we’ve gotten spoiled on having the government subsidize it. I’m sure Bob Rivard can find a spot for Rick Casey to write or do segments for some of the multi-media spots RR does. I can find left- and right-wing news online if I want it. Local, even. For left-wing news we are fortunate to have this site and the Current. For right-wing….well other than some cranks’ blogs I guess we don’t have much.

  9. I suspect Rick may lean to the left, especially in his “Last Word” segment. But, I very much appreciate that his interview segment tackled difficult subjects in a respectful manner and always allowed both sides to offer their views. His interviews of local candidates were especially helpful – much more so than newspaper recommendations, public candidate forums, and political ads. I will miss that the most. I am not sure where we will go to find comparable information on local candidates. Rivard Report — can you fill the vacuum?

    • Rivard Report is On The Air…nice ring to it. GoFundMe type crowdfunding: would around 150K / year do it? I got a sawbuck ready for that.

      ‘Course I’d rather see The RReport live stream it too, so there’s more cost…but to bring back a public affairs program, where candidates and powers-that-are talk with Robert or another senior editor about serious subjects in respectful but direct tones surely is worth it to me (who’s both a newscast and podcast dude)

      KLRN is dropping the ball and in danger of heading towards its sunset.

  10. I am shocked that KLRN would let Rick Casey go and give in to the political pressures. Shame on KLRN.
    It would have been easy to raise $144,000 and using that money as an excuse to end Rick Casey’s show gives cause to these viwers to supsect other reasons. We don’t recall KLRN asking for Rick Casey funding.
    Ask for the money, Fools!!!!
    Shame on KLRN.

  11. We also were never asked to report Rick Casey’s broadcast. We donate to KLRN but will now reconsider because it appears that Mr. Emerson and the Board of Directors are playing politics. Mr. Emerson has already censored Mr. Casey over the fact that Lamar Smith is a climate change denier. It seems that the KLRN Board members need to determine if we can afford to retain Mr. Emerson. Mr. Casey is a steadfast reporter with deep knowledge about San Antonio. This is a tragedy.

  12. What happened to Freedom of the Press? Freedom of Speech? The comment from Lamar Smith tells me that Lamar Smith needs to be reseated. Maybe Emerson needs to be replaced.

  13. The sentiments expressed by others are mine as well: It looks like a measly $144,000 a year is nothing but an excuse to bump an independent voice from what should be a non-political TV outlet. Corporate sponsors should not dictate what we hear on public TV. If I could, I would give KLRN the $144,000 a year with the proviso that it go to Texas Week. Surely the station can come up with the money – It appears that Arthur Emerson doesn’t want it to. And, as others have said, maybe Arthur Emerson should go and not Rick Casey.

  14. Time to stop supporting this public station. I tune into PBS mainly for the political programs offered. This Week with Rick Casey was a must watch program for me on Friday nights. It was nice to have a program that focused on local San Antonio issues and people.
    I also use to love watching The McLaughlinGroup on Sunday’s but unfortunately John McLaughlin passed.
    They aren’t replacing these programs with more interesting talk shows. They are replacing these programs with more British dramas.
    I’m sick of the drama both figuratively and literally.

  15. KLRN’s failure to find support for Rick Casey reflects badly in its commitment to the public’s need for democratic discourse. Casey is a gentle voice of reason. If some see that quality as ‘left’, surely Emerson could parry that with ease. Rick Casey has been and is one of our most positive citizens contributing to improving the quality of life in San Antonio. This affair cuts against Me. Rivard’s editorial today about San Antonio’s emerging competitiveness.

  16. Stephen, thanks, as always, for your trenchant remarks. You alone saw the irony in my proposed Civil War Park. I do not disagree with you here, either. San Antonio is a poorer city without Rick Casey’s voice in the public discourse, or leading that discourse. Rick has told us that he wants to write a book. We support that, but I’ve made it clear to him that if he decides to seek a new platform the Rivard Report is ready to work with him to make that possible. Unlike KLRN-TV, we believe our readers and donors would support such an initiative. –RR

  17. Rick Casey has an incomparable background that supports his programming decisions and the even-handed nature of his interviews and commentaries. His lengthy tenure as a student of public affairs in San Antonio–with no hiatus even when he moved to Houston–provides unique context for San Antonians–especially as this city has grown and its demographics have diversified. What other analyst in San Antonio can match his ability to distill the essence of our “interesting” community? Knowing the history of the town is invaluable, as is the ability to follow and reweave the threads to refresh our memories of things past. While Rick seems intent on retiring, it is important at least to recognize what we will be losing from San Antonio’s broadcast in-depth public-affairs news when he is not on tap at KLRN.

  18. Indeed Rick Casey is not only THE signature program for KLRN but also for San Antonio. With a $7 million annual budget or so for KLRN, surely some adjustments could have been made to keep this program. The Blazing Gavels auction is so outdated and profit margin so low (versus the cost to put it on the air), that a good business plan to redirect those funds for Rick Casey could have easily paid for the program. Arthur Emerson does not have fundraising experience like his predecessor Mario Vazquez who opened a fully-funded satellite studio in Laredo and covered a $300,000 deficit he inherited with a profit, so it can be done with the right leadership. Hope the board reasses the station’s needs and priorities.

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