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Talk radio overflows with inflated opinions and overgrown egos. Most hosts masquerade as a friendly, or not so friendly, omniscient interviewer. The voice of Krys Boyd, the host and managing editor of the radio and TV chat show "Think," which airs from 12-2 p.m. and again at night Monday through Thursday on KERA 90.1 FM, dares to say something everyday on her show not often heard on the airwaves.
“It takes a level of comfort in your own mind and perspective on the world to say, 'I don’t know,'" Boyd says while sitting behind a cold microphone in her "Think" studio. "It’s so much easier, and sometimes maybe enviably easier. Sometimes I look at people who seem to know where they stand on everything and I don’t absolutely want that but it seems like they’ve already picked a side and stuck to it and they're not going to move from there. You have to be open to the idea that things are not what they seem and there’s more to discover."
This prevalent curiosity and open-mindness – this "I don't know" – is really the thesis statement for Boyd's show no matter who is sitting across from her, whether it's a notable name like Bishop Desmond Tutu, author John Irving, actor and "Daily Show" correspondent Aasif Mandvi or anyone else Boyd and her audience might find interesting.
“To me, it’s about the why of things, the reason that things happen," says Boyd. "I really like shows that take things that I thought I knew a lot about and pokes a hole in that or takes things I just assume to be true and throws in a layer of doubt or new research.”
Boyd first got the bug to ask "Why?" for a living when she worked as an intern for a television station in her hometown of El Paso. She started in broadcasting in the early 1990s for the local TV station's news department to score some production experience for her dream of pursuing a career in comedy writing, a hobby she picked up while writing a student run TV show inspired by the Letterman late night format.
"On the first day, I got to go out with this reporter and do a feature story on this men’s federal correctional institution called La Tuna," Boyd says. "I had no interest in journalism at the time. It was just a way to get some production credit, so I was there to hold the mic and carry the tripod and I had these preconceived notions about what was inside. It was completely different and the idea that I thought I knew something and then when I got to go out and explore and have this little adventure, it was completely different from what I expected. It was so exciting to me and after that, I was interested in journalism.”
Boyd says she worked several TV and radio jobs in El Paso but eventually grew tired of "the sensational nature of TV journalism." So she took a job in Dallas in 1999 as a content wrangler and occasional interviewer for Broadcast.com, the Internet media company that made owner and founder Mark Cuban enough money to afford the Dallas Mavericks. Conducting interviews was more of a side project for the company, even though she scored some notable names such as then Gov. George W. Bush during his first presidential run and Tammy Faye Bakker, the former wife of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker.
She got her first chance to make her side project into her full-time career in 2001 when she responded to a job ad for an evening talk show host at KERA. Her first show, "Conversations," lasted less than a year due to budget cuts in 2002 that led to lay-offs in the middle of her maternity leave. She also lost her husband, Jose Villa Señor, the following year.
KERA brought her back shortly after her husband's passing to work as a producer on a documentary about President Kennedy's assassination, a six month job that she called "the best thing for me because I had a million things going on in my life and I could just focus on this project."
That also led to more documentary work with the station. Then in 2005, afternoon radio host Glenn Mitchell suddenly passed away. KERA kept Mitchell's time slot open for almost a year as they brought in guest hosts and continued his beloved "Anything You Ever Wanted to Know" show on Fridays, a show that's still in rotation thanks to host and "Think" executive producer Jeff Whittington. KERA offered Boyd Mitchell's time slot in 2006 and she and Whittington started developing the show that would become "Think."
"Mostly it was very similar in format but it would be informed by my sensibility, which is a little bit different than Glenn's," Boyd says. "He was such a brilliant human being. He was like the smartest college professor you ever had. You got the sense that he just knew all this stuff off the top of his head."
Boyd says creating a show that matched Mitchell's standard of excellence while forming her own format was quite a challenge.
"I knew what a rare talent he was and for years, people would say, 'I thought I'd never listen to anybody except Glenn Mitchell' and I always took it as a compliment and that they meant it in the kindest possible way," Boyd says. "It was daunting but then I just had to do what I did and not think too much about it. It was going to be a different show because the way I see the world is different and it's certainly not about my opinions but it's going to be informed by the things I'm curious about."
Boyd's boundless curiosity is evident in her office. Not your typical journalist, Boyd keeps her desk organized. You can actually see its surface under her stacks of notes, books and articles. She has them neatly spaced out for each day's show accompanied by research notes with questions written in the margin and marked with strategically placed stickers. The stacks cover a variety of topics such as books like The Making of Asian America to research on Postsecret.com, a web site that serves an art project where strangers can mail their secrets on anonymous postcards for public consumption.
"I’m a freak for research," Boyd says. "I over-prepare because I feel like I don’t want to ask something dumb."
Boyd says she also enjoys going off the cuff with guests and exploring things you can't uncover with scads of research.
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"I’m interested a lot in questions of identity and people’s personal identity so those shows are always interesting to me," she says. "It’s not always about the star power of the people we have in. I like people who are a little bit obsessive because they’re just so interesting. They’re the weird corners of your mind made into a whole person in the best possible way.”
The goal of her show isn't just to inform her viewers. Boyd says she's just as interested in learning something from every episode.
"Sometimes there will be a topic that I don’t think I’m that interested in and I’ll just say I’m going to power through it because the audience likes it but by the time I start writing down notes and circling things, then I have questions," Boyd says. "Questions come into my head that are relating to something I read two weeks or a show I did six months ago or something my brother-in-law said and one thing plays into the next. So I feel like it’s a bad show if I didn’t learn something new because that means we didn’t go somewhere uncharted.”
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