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Shake up at Houston Public Media: Beloved radio personality given notice after 25 years of service

Houston Public Radio Debra Fraser and Emily Binetti head shot
The positions of Houston Public Media's director of operations and stations manager Debra Fraser, left, and director of communication Emily Binetti were eliminated. HoustonPublicRadio.org

Employees at Houston Public Media were surprised to learn that a restructuring plan that began more than 18 months ago resulted in the termination of two employees Monday.

Director of operations and stations manager Debra Fraser, who joined KUHF in 1988, had risen through the ranks since first coming on board as a news reporter. She was promoted to news director and served as local host of All Things Considered. Fraser is credited with leading initiatives that helped the media conglomerate double the size of its staff while increasing local news coverage, establishing the emergency alert system and executing on-air fundraising campaigns, according to her biography on Houston Public Radio's website.

Her position, along with director of communication Emily Binetti's, was eliminated at the suggestion of a consultant, sources close to CultureMap say.

"Houston Public Media began a major restructuring of its personnel and operations in October 2011. Today's action, in which the positions of two employees were eliminated, is a continuation of that restructuring initiative to position Houston Public Media for the future," Richard Bonnin, University of Houston's marketing and communications interim associate vice president, wrote in an email.

That reorganization plan was set in motion when another company veteran, KUHF CEO John Proffitt, and Channel 8 general manager John Hesse were given the pink slip in October 2011, one day before Lisa Trapani Shumate took over as executive director and general manager of the entity that oversees KUHF  88.7, KUHA Classical 91.7 and PBS affiliate KUHT Channel 8.

In an effort to marry the three stations under one roof, in February of last year Shumate promoted Fraser to her most recent post and dismissed 12 employees who worked in production, programming, technology and administration, including Patricia Gras, host of Living Smart with Patricia Smart.

At the time, Shumate told CultureMap that she didn't anticipate further cuts, stating that "this is a one-time move we're going to make to align expenses and revenues."

But it appears as if Fraser worked herself out of job — even after 25 years of faithful service.

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