Krys Boyd Gives Listeners Something to ‘Think’ About
The host of KERA’s Think radio show brings her unique journalistic style to a wide range of interviews.
As an undergraduate in Radio-TV-Film Production, Krisandra “Krys” Boyd ’92 seemed bound for Saturday Night Live, Second City or some other high-profile comedy place where she could spoof the news. Instead, she became the voice of Texas public radio.
Five days a week on Think, an award-winning syndicated show, Boyd directs her razor-sharp insights and incisive questions toward everyone from policymakers and scientists to cultural influencers and icons.
“Krys practices an old-fashioned kind of journalism that is all too rare these days — she asks questions and then actually listens to the answers she gets,” said Bob Schieffer ’59, retired host of Face the Nation on CBS. “She’s really become one of the best interviewers in the country.”
Boyd’s exceptional listening skills — a key component of her professional life — first became apparent in 1984 when her family moved from Long Island, New York, to El Paso, Texas. By day three at her new Catholic girls school, the then-13-year-old had lost all trace of her East Coast accent.
“From the start, I loved living along the border in Texas,” said Boyd, the eldest of three daughters from a tight-knit Irish clan. “In high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but even back then I always enjoyed getting kids and teachers to go off on tangents during class.”
Boyd credits her father, whose job in freight sales for American Airlines lured the family from New York, with nudging her toward TCU. “When we first visited, I got a warm feeling, and the size felt right to me,” she said, adding that her sister Laura Boyd DeSmeth ’96 followed her to TCU a few years later.
Once ensconced on campus, Boyd fell in with an unabashedly comedic crowd. A natural mimic with a sense of humor that endears her to friends and co-workers, Boyd devoted untold hours working on a student-run TV production originally titled Lights Out With Michael Numberman, which she said had the goofy vibe of NBC’s Late Night With David Letterman.
“We all called each other TV geeks, and they really were my tribe,” said Boyd, who worked on the show for three years. “TCU not only gave us permission to use the school’s studios, but our professors encouraged us, allowed us to make our own mistakes and more than anything gave us room to be creative, though they did make sure we weren’t doing anything ridiculously inappropriate.”
The show also afforded Boyd and her peers “a chance to work through conflict and to fight for our own ideas, which was a really constructive experience.”
Boyd minored in journalism, and said the department’s professors nurtured her love for news. Those sentiments only grew with a pivotal summer internship between her sophomore and junior years at KDBC-TV, the CBS affiliate in El Paso.
“I always knew she was going to do something important someday,” said David Whillock, associate provost and dean of TCU’s Academy of Tomorrow and former dean of the Bob Schieffer College of Communication. “Back then in my classes, she would not immediately bounce back and defend her comments or answers but would instead respond after careful consideration, which was rare.”
Whillock, who is also a professor of film, television and digital media, recalled Boyd as “a hungry student who really wanted information,” he said. “When she was in school here, we did not have all of the top-notch students we do today. But even if Krys were here today, she would still have stood out against the competition.”
KDBC-TV hired Boyd as an on-air reporter and weekend assignment editor a week after she graduated from TCU. Seven months later, the economic realities of working in small-market TV compelled Boyd to take a second job at KOFX-FM (92.3) in El Paso. At the radio station, she anchored the news during morning drive time, read traffic updates and even managed to write a little comedy on the side.
Between the two jobs, Boyd worked nearly 70 hours a week. “I learned to work very hard, something that has proven incredibly useful to me throughout my career,” she said. “And working in El Paso as a reporter, I also learned a lot about how privileged I was, growing up middle class with a college education in a stable, two-parent home.”
Jason Wheeler, a reporter and weekend news anchor at WFAA-TV in Dallas, worked with Boyd at the El Paso TV station in the mid-1990s. “I always thought her work at the radio station made her especially good on TV,” he said. “Krys has always been very witty and has such a remarkably good vocabulary, so good in fact it used to drive all of her colleagues nuts.”
Boyd credits her on-air facility with language to an abiding love of reading. “Today what I am known for is preparation, but I have always been a reader,” she said. “It’s funny that I was not a champion studier in my student days, but in my job now that is a really big part of what I do.”
Most afternoons at home in East Dallas, Boyd pores over books to prepare for the next day’s radio show. She writes out as many as three dozen questions by hand in advance of any scheduled interview.
By the time Boyd moved to Dallas in 1999 to work for Mark Cuban’s Broadcast.com, she and her husband, Jose Villaseñor, were expecting their first child. (Ben, a budding actor, will graduate in June from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.)
As a senior producer for Cuban’s internet startup, Boyd culled through the online content that television stations throughout the country had uploaded, then shared the stories on the Broadcast.com website.
Although working at a successful startup during the tech boom proved exciting and lucrative, Boyd said she found herself missing hands-on reporting. To accommodate that need, she pushed her bosses at the digital company for a chance once again to pick up a microphone. “Eventually when I had extra time, they allowed me to work on long-form interviews with people who came into town,” she said. “I started doing the kind of work I would wind up doing for KERA.”
Boyd left Cuban’s company in mid-2001 to join the staff of the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s public radio station, KERA 90.1 FM. In addition to various news-related duties, she hosted an evening talk show called Conversations. Budget shortfalls in the aftermath of 9/11 hastened that radio show’s demise.
The show signed off the air a year later while Boyd was on maternity leave with her daughter, Clara, now a high school sophomore.
In early 2003, Villaseñor, who had a thriving career in public relations, died unexpectedly. Boyd remarried five years later. Her husband, Matt DeMoss, is an editor/production manager for Dallas Theological Seminary and father of two children: Heather, a college freshman, and Harrison, a high school junior.
“There is going to be one year when all four will be in college at the same time,” Boyd said with a laugh that sounded ever so slightly pained.
The ‘Think’ Era
In November 2006, Boyd was named host and managing editor of the radio show Think. “I was replacing someone who was a local institution and who had died suddenly the year before,” she said. “We knew we needed to do something new because they were such big shoes to fill. At some point, I realized I needed to make my own shoes.”
Early on, Boyd discovered she loved — and excelled at — wide-ranging interviews on a variety of subjects with a single overarching characteristic: The discussions went deep. “I am Think’s managing editor and do most of the writing that takes place within the show as well as direct the tone the interviews will take, but we make most of the content decisions as a team,” she said of her small staff, which includes a producer.
“KERA is a great place to work,” Boyd said. “They have really allowed us to grow the show, experiment and try new things, and find our voice as a program.”
Boyd welcomes guests on myriad topics, although she admits to steering clear of most anything sports-related, a relative rarity in the Dallas-Fort Worth marketplace. (“I just don’t get sports,” she said.)
“I especially love any type of science that deals with human psychology: why we do the things we do,” she added. “I also like when people write memoirs and I can interview them about their lives. I really feel just as excited about a guest no one has ever heard of as someone who has achieved a lot of fame.”
“She learned early on that the interview is about the person being interviewed, not the questioner.”
Boyd’s signature long-form interviews — most guests spend a full hour answering her questions as well as those from listeners — showcase her penchant for serious inquiry.
“She learned early on that the interview is about the person being interviewed, not the questioner,”
Added Whillock: “She’s such a quick thinker, and the fact that she is such a good listener enables her to ask great follow-up questions in a way many journalists simply cannot.”
Wheeler, meanwhile, appreciates how Boyd sets the bar high for journalists, himself included: “I actually interview some of the same people coming through town as Krys does, and she really makes you step up your game!”
Audiences have clearly taken note. In January 2017, Think became syndicated and can now be heard from 1 to 2 p.m. weekdays in 17 markets across Texas, including the state’s four largest cities — Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas. (Monday-Thursday, Dallas-Fort Worth listeners can tune in for an extra hour at 1 p.m.) The show also sees some 200,000 downloads each month, with more than half of those originating from listeners out of state.
“The nice thing about expanding into multiple markets is that there’s a top tier of guests that were sometimes hard to get before,” Boyd said. “Now that our profile is higher, I hope there’s nobody we think is interesting that we can’t talk to.”
Past guests have included everyone from Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to journalist and author Malcolm Gladwell, actor Bryan Cranston and photographer Annie Leibovitz.
A Forever Frog
Despite her hectic professional life and the rigors of parenting, Boyd found time to serve as an adviser for the Bob Schieffer College of Communication from 2013 to 2015.
Catherine Coleman, associate professor of strategic communication, has worked with Boyd for nearly three years on Think Global, part of TCU’s Discovering Global Citizenship program. “It was right around the Ebola crisis when we started noticing that the university did not have a mechanism to respond more immediately to emergent or urgent global issues,” said Coleman.
“For the panel discussions, we had come up with the name ‘Think Global’ — which had nothing to do with [Boyd’s] show, Think — and felt that in our dream world we would have Krys involved because she’s so well-known and well-respected. We almost couldn’t believe it when we asked and she said yes.”
Each semester, TCU hosts Think Global, an evening devoted to a timely topic. In March 2017, Boyd moderated a discussion about borders and immigration. November’s program was called Weathering Climate Conversations.
Boyd moderates a panel of scholars, journalists and policymakers on campus, with nearly 400 students, faculty and community members attending the open forum.
“These are challenging topics and can be quite controversial,” Coleman said. “I honestly do not know how these conversations would be going without Krys. She’s actually been instrumental to the way we’ve been able to build out the program.”
Coleman emphasized the professionalism with which Boyd tackles her role as panel moderator. “Her questions to the panelists are so well-researched, so organized, and so precise and thoughtful,” Coleman said. “She can engage a student asking a question or a non-native English-speaking panelist with equal ease.
“And on top of all that, Krys Boyd is also truly an incredible person.”