In the spring, 88.7 KUHF Houston Public Radio's revamped its programming schedule, adding a new show on Friday at noon called Houston Matters, "sound-rich segments highlighting the people, places, issues and ideas affecting Houston." Segments on the show have included everything from opinions on the Astrodome to "food-deserts" in Houston's low-income neighborhood, to profiles of locally-owned businesses.
Meet the program's host and executive producer, Craig Cohen.
What He Does Cohen has spent the past 20 years working in public media. He's been everything from a film critic to reporter to manager and programmer. Before moving to Houston in March, Cohen worked as news and public affairs director for Illinois Public Media and hosted radio talk shows in Illinois and Pennsylvania.
"Houston Public Media had been looking to do something like this for a long time," he said of the show. "So I sat down with Jim Russell (creator of the public radio show Marketplace) with the goal of figuring out what kind of difference you can make with a program like that."
The station spent almost two months workshopping the show and coming up with segments, and launched in late April with Cohen as host. Since then, it's expanded to two afternoons a week, Thursdays and Fridays.
Cohen first got his start as a talk show host in Pennsylvania in 2008.
"Unlike Houston Matters," he said, "we launched that show in one day."
Why He Likes It "I love the idea of communicating ideas with a listener. Unlike television, with radio, you're focused on the ideas themselves," he said. "It's very intimate. You can develop a relationship with your listener."
What Inspires Him? "Passionate storytellers," he said. "A turn of phrase. People who seek to make the world a better place."
If Not This, Then What? Cohen, who dabbles in improv theater in his spare time, said theater sometimes informs his work life.
"I think I am a better host because of it, but I wouldn't want to do it professionally," he said. "I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now."
In addition to improve at the Station Theater and involvement with Houston's new Moth StorySLAM readings, Cohen is also an avid hockey fan. When he was growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, his father ran a late-night rec league, and hockey has been a lifelong love.
"I might look into play-by-play announcing," he said.
If Not Here, Then Where? "I am very happy here in Houston," he said. "I'd be happy enough to return to my hometown, St. Louis, or the middle Pacific, where I lived for a decade. Somewhere with a hockey team."
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What's Next? Very soon, Houston Matters will expand to three days a week, with the eventual goal of running at noon every weekday. Cohen and the show's production team are working on more regular features, such as one called "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly," where they look at some of the odder stories in the week's news, and are trying to hire more staff before the expansion.
"We've got to wait until we add another producer," he said.
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