Meet Your IPC

Benjamin “El Chupacabras” Reed

Benjamin is the Program Director, Spanish Language Brand Manager, and News Director for 99.1 La Perrona, LatinX and formerly La Patrona and La Fantástica 970. He also programs KYJJ Boardman, Oregon and KYOZ, Spokane, Washington (which covers northern Idaho). His only English job is with KART AM at night.

Interviewed by Joan Cartan-Hansen

Where were you born and where did you go to school?

I am an Idaho native, born in Boise, but have lived in North Dakota, Utah, Texas, Missouri, Tennessee, Argentina and Mexico. I graduated from high school in Idaho Falls (Go Bees!) but attended a few years of school on the southern border of Arizona in Sierra Vista.

Are you married? Children?

I am married to the beautiful Deyanira Escalona Tróchez, a Mexico City native who I first met in 2004. We were married in picturesque San Miguel de Allende in Mexico in 2008. Deya and I adopted Benjamín Rafael in 2018. Little Ben often joins his “papi” on the air with commentary.

What made you become a journalist?

As a small child, I first met Chet Huntley on a trip with my parents. Later, in 5th grade, I put together my first pirate radio station from a Radio Shack kit. I added a power supply and a 100 foot wire. I had a decent signal for a mile. During this time, my grandfather would take me out with my cassette recorder for actualities. I remember interviewing Ralph Olmstead, Phil Batt and other politicians. All of this helped me get into television as a camera kid at KIFI when I was in high school. In my senior year, I got to play second fiddle to Mark Bailey at KID AM/FM in Idaho Falls. I would produce a couple of stories with actualities every day.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Without a doubt, I would say that giving a resolute voice to the marginalized is the best part of my job. It is both an honor and a curse — if I make a huge mistake as a “gatekeeper,” it could be a matter of life or death, especially regarding information disseminated during the pandemic. My goal is to break apart complicated issues into smaller “bites” that can be better “digested” by my listeners. It is a daunting task.

Worst?

I wake up around 2 a.m. every day. I try to go to bed early. Sometimes I will be at work or community functions until after 9 p.m.

What was the most interesting story you’ve ever covered?

I would have to say the Angie Dodge murder in Idaho Falls. Angie lived just a block down from the property I was renting at the time. I was out walking past her apartment just hours before the murder took place. A short time later, I would have personal interactions (no, not criminal in nature) with Jared Fuhriman, a key police figure embroiled in the case. I am still haunted by the details.

How has your job changed over the years?

Technology has transformed the industry beyond my wildest dreams. As I mentioned, I started in the industry caring a massive Ikegami attached with an umbilical cord into a U-matic deck that had a 20-minute capacity. These days, a telephone has nearly unlimited capacity with 4k images. On the radio side, I used to rip the AP and UPI wires and write stories on a manual typewriter. I had to record my interviews on a reel-to-reel and then edit with a razor blade and dub to a cart. Now, I have the whole process available in my home studio.

Do you have any favorite hobbies?

I am ham radio operator (WB7CHU), I love radio DXing, I enjoy reading foreign newspapers and work as a club DJ. My “Sonido Chupacabras” specializes in Latin music for birthdays, weddings and other social events.

Why did you decide to join the Idaho Press Club Board?

I have to give a lot of credit to Melissa Davlin for recruiting me. Melissa made it clear to me that it was important to have more representation from radio and also from the Latinx community.

What advice do you have for others who are thinking of joining the profession?

Listen to the seasoned professionals and to most of the consultants! Had I done this earlier on, I would have become better at my craft much sooner.

Another concern that I have is the tendency to look for the “low-hanging fruit.” Constantly be on the lookout for stories that might be more difficult to tell but have a deeper impact. Part of the reason the younger generations look at journalism with so much skepticism is that we as gatekeepers have failed at explaining these hard issues. In my current job, I have learned that if you consistently provided trusted information and persist with reliable sources, the ratings will follow. It is possible to accumulate good ratings based on sensationalism, but they will not last.

I never imagined that I would have spent the majority of my work in a foreign language. It is deeply humbling to me that I would be so well accepted by the Hispanic (Latinx) community. My work experience in Argentina, five years in Mexico (while still working for Lee Family Broadcasting) and in the United States has given me a unique perspective on humanity. Such experiences have also led to the birth of my alter ego, “El Chupacabras” (a cryptozoological creation of the “Goat Sucker” or roughly the equivalent of “Bigfoot.”) Had “El Chupacabras” never been born, I would have never made it into the Los Angeles Times (twice), into Hector Tobar’s “Translation Nation” or into Nathanael Hoffman’s “Amor and Exile.” I would never have had the opportunity to be interviewed on national radio by El Mandril, El Piolin and El Cucuy. My all-time greatest moment was getting a trumpet blast from El Chacal on Sábado Gigante with Don Francisco (essentially the Hispanic version of “The Gong Show.”)

Joan Cartan-Hansen is a producer/reporter/writer/host with Idaho Public Television and the treasurer of the Idaho Press Club.