KOSU hires two new reporters to cover agriculture, water and rural communities in Oklahoma
KOSU welcomes two new reporters to our team, covering agriculture, rural communities and water issues. With listener support, KOSU continues to expand its newsroom to be of better service to the Oklahoma community.
The reporters — Xcaret Nuñez and Graycen Wheeler — come to KOSU as corps members for Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is a national service program from the nonprofit news organization The Groundtruth Project.
"When we created an agriculture and rural affairs beat in 2020 in collaboration with Report for America, we had no idea how much demand there would be for this kind of work," said KOSU executive director Rachel Hubbard. "The need for more coverage in rural Oklahoma has become evident, and several issues that are common for communities across the state have become apparent."
Report for America leverages a unique funding match model, paying half of a corps member’s salary, while encouraging and supporting its local news partners to raise money for the other half.
"Report for America provides a unique opportunity for journalists to pursue meaningful, local beat reporting that sadly is missing from many of today's newsrooms," said Earl Johnson, director of admissions at Report for America. "Together, our emerging and experienced corps members will produce tens of thousands of articles on critically undercovered topics—schools, government, healthcare, the environment, communities of color, and more."
Nuñez will join the Harvest Public Media collaborative, which reports on food systems, agriculture and rural issues. This will allow her work to be heard on radio stations in nine states and elevate the work of Oklahoma producers and experts. Her coverage will focus on undercovered farming and rural issues that affect both rural and urban residents in Oklahoma, particularly the Latino community.
Nuñez previously was a reporter, producer and anchor at KBIA, the NPR affiliate in Columbia, Missouri, covering community and education. She was also a Missouri Statehouse reporter for the Missouri News Network, covering the 2022 legislative session. Prior to that, Nuñez interned for the national news magazine Here & Now.
A first-generation college graduate, Nuñez graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in religious studies. She is originally from Yuma, Arizona, the Southwest city known as the "Lettuce Capital of the World" and "Sunniest City on Earth."
Wheeler will investigate the water quality of Oklahoma's rural water systems and private wells for KOSU.
She grew up in Norman and attended the University of Oklahoma, where she studied biochemistry. Wheeler then started writing and podcasting about science news while a graduate researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder.
She realized that becoming a journalist would allow her to combine her love for her local community with the puzzle-solving penchant that had drawn her to science. So, after earning her doctorate in biochemistry, Wheeler completed a master’s in science journalism at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
While in Santa Cruz, Wheeler wrote about science and technology for outlets including Science, Symmetry Magazine and Mongabay. She also covered local news, particularly housing and environmental issues, for the Monterey Herald, San Jose Mercury News and Santa Cruz Local.
"We are excited to expand this rural coverage with the help of The Groundtruth Project and matching dollars from Oklahoma listeners and businesses," said Hubbard.
Nuñez and Wheeler both join KOSU on June 1.