ROOTS: This Big Apple baby grew up in the postcard landscapes of the Midwest and insists that rumors about Iowa corn are as true as rumors about Idaho potatoes (i.e. we have lots, but the entire land surface is not groomed by a tractor and we don't all live on farms). Iowa was his home for 24 years, as well as the place he met his wife and earned his chops as a journalist working in public television production, then advertising, then at a daily paper and finally as director of broadcasting at the University of Iowa's National Public Radio (NPR) stations KUNI and KHKE.
CLAIM TO FAME: In five years, Hess made some of the most striking changes in the history of NPR Iowa, utilizing listener and staff input to change programming and helping to bring in the most fundraising dollars either station has ever seen. His blend of aggressive business sense and inclusive management garnered Hess national attention, and Boise State Radio was quick to offer him a job as general manager (o,r as he says, "chief cook and bottle washer") for Idaho's three NPR stations. He took the job without ever seeing Boise, but after a few visits, he and his family (wife Michele, son Gabe and daughter Kelly) were happy with their choice of adventures. They move in June, leaving behind the flatlands for a "city up against the mountains."
GOALS: Hess is focused on adding more local news and talk radio programs to NPR in order to strengthen community ties to the station. "We provide three really good programming services to Boise, and with 21 repeater stations-everybody in the state is getting some kind of information from NPR. The missing piece is what's going on in the state and the state's capitol, and the focus should be on reflecting the intellectual, cultural and civic life of Idahoans back to listeners," Hess said.
FUN FACTS: Despite being born in New York, Hess is a fourth-generation Iowan and the fourth child and only boy in a gaggle of four sisters. Other than joking about beatings and verbal abuse from his siblings, Hess claims to be "so normal."
INTERESTS: Mountain biking, cross country skiing, his dogs, his kids and public radio.
DREAMS: "I'm achieving a dream right now; this is a dream job for me. I'm learning more about what I do and making a difference."
FAVE IOWA FOOD: Sweet corn from a roadside stand, cooked that night during the three- week window of perfection in late June.
PARTING SHOT: "We need to teach people through media-help people understand more about their world and nation and communities. If it's not teaching you anything, what's it for?"