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Welcome to Membership Matters, a place where St. Louis Public Radio members can get an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the station & advanced notice of STLPR events!

Meet Maria Altman, Newscast Editor

After more than 13 years as a St. Louis Public Radio reporter, Maria Altman has recently transitioned into her new role as an editor, overseeing newscasts, education reporting and business reporting. We spent some time talking with Maria about her path to St. Louis Public Radio and what keeps her here.

Tell me about your path to St. Louis Public Radio. Why did you choose to come here?
I started my journalism career at my hometown newspaper, The Sioux City Journal. After going overseas to teach English in Prague, I came to rely on the BBC and realized I really wanted to be in radio. From there I spent some time in Chicago as an intern at WBEZ and then landed my first radio job as the Morning Edition host in Carbondale. I got my graduate degree from University of Illinois - Springfield, and then did a stint as the All Things Considered host in Dallas before returning to the Midwest for a position at St. Louis Public Radio.

You have been a reporter and newscaster for a long time. Why make the move to editor?
I’ve been in radio for nearly 18 years, and for 13 of those I was a newscaster, so it’s a job I know well. That depth of experience puts me in a good position to be able to support the newscasters and reporters who are working each day to get good stories with good sound on the air.

There must be dozens of stories you can tell each day. How do you choose/prioritize?
First, it is important to know that the newscasters themselves make the decisions about which stories are included in the newscasts. As an editor, I am the voice of the newscasters and reporters to the editorial team as we gather to decide which stories to assign, but newscasters decide how to assemble the newscasts based on what is coming in. They have a lot of autonomy.

That said, when I am trying to make a decision about what to cover with limited resources, I consider many factors, such as: how many people are impacted? Are we breaking new ground, or leading the way? Is the information particularly surprising or unusual?

Is there a story you have reported that you are particularly proud of?
I did a story on Community Improvement Districts that got a fair amount of interest. It is a complicated topic, but it directly impacts the amount of sales tax consumers are paying for goods from one block to the next.

Let’s talk favorites:

  • Radio Program:
    I get to listen far less than I used to given my work schedule, but I am very impressed with 1A.
  • NPR reporter:
    David Greene - I loved his reporting from overseas, and I like the way he asks questions. He has an upbeat and professional demeanor.
  • Pandora/Spotify station:
    I’m really on a Tom Petty kick lately.  
  • Sports team:
    The University of Iowa Hawkeyes - my alma mater!
  • Holiday:

Long-time listeners may remember that when you first joined STLPR you were Maria Hickey, but they might not know that you met your husband here! Tell us that story.
My husband, Robert Altman, worked as a producer for St. Louis on the Air and did some work on the STLPR website. Former afternoon host Steve Potter was insistent that Robert and I should get to know each other, so I asked him out to lunch. We went out for Vietnamese food and were married a year later. He has since moved on to Washington University and we have welcomed two kids!

Is there a dream reporting assignment for you?
I recently had an assignment that allowed me to do reporting from both Ireland and Israel, and that was an exciting opportunity. While reporting from those places was not much different than reporting from here, being able to work on projects that let me travel and meet new people is incredible. I would love to do more of that.

When you’re not working, what are you doing?

  • Book you’ve read most recently?
    Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. I had read his book, Benjamin Franklin: An American Lifeand liked it a lot.  
  • Last movie you watched?
    Lady Bird
  • How do you take your coffee?:
    My coffee has to have cream!
  • Do you play any musical instruments?
    I play the piano and, way back when, the saxophone.

What is your favorite thing about working in radio?
Radio is a fun medium. You can hear what people are thinking in their own voices, and now we  can extend the impact of their stories on the web with images and videos and additional information that doesn’t fit in the limited time available on air. The sky is the limit, which requires that we prioritize and focus.

What’s next? What are you looking forward to?
We are currently looking for an Economic Development Reporter who will focus on growth in our region. Specifically, this person will be looking at how business and government and universities are working in ways to grow our economy. Having a reporter with this focus will allow us to better tell the stories of the financial climate of the region.

What makes St. Louis a good place to be a reporter?
While this is not my hometown, I have been in St. Louis for 13 years and going strong. It is both a good place to live and has a lot of challenges. As a reporter, that’s a good mix.