Thursday, April 10, 2008

Texas Country Reporter travels state's back roads, finding stories wherever he goes; going national

Bob Phillips, 56, has spent more than 35 years traveling Texas' back roads in search of stories, and along the way, he has become the Texas Country Reporter, a "Lone Star Charles Kuralt," reports Ralph Blumenthal of The New York Times. On each weekly broadcast — of which there have been more than 2,000 — Phillips presents stories such as the reopening of The Tee Pee Motel after 23 years. (Above, Phillips, in blue, interviews the new owner in a Times photo Michael Stravato.)

The program airs on 25 Texas stations and are later rebroadcast on cable and satellite channel RFD-TV, which reaches 30 million households, mostly in rural areas. Phillips receives his ideas from viewers — his inbox has at least 100 suggestions a day — and from just driving around.

"The programs, usually composed of three stories each, include seven minutes of commercial time, which the Texas stations and Mr. Phillips split for sale to sponsors — in his case, companies like a farmers' credit cooperative, a metal roofer and a sausage-maker," Blumenthal writes. "The Texas Country Reporter plans to go fully national in January with a second show called 'On the Road with Bob Phillips.' Shooting starts next month. One of his first stories? 'The person whose sole job is to fill the cracks in Mount Rushmore.'" (Read more)

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