Meet 88.7 KUHF radio’s new morning anchor.
by Megan Smith
Photo by Dennis Kwan Photography
Eddie Robinson is the ultimate morning person. He arrives at work each day by 4 a.m. and is fired up, ready to go. While others stick to a strict “don’t talk to me until noon” policy, Robinson is talking to thousands before sunrise—on air—as the Morning Edition news anchor for KUHF, Houston Public Media’s News 88.7 radio station.
Hailing from McComb, Mississippi—home to the likes of Britney Spears and Bo Didley—Robinson has always had a knack for radio. The type of kid who “always needed to be busy,” his mom encouraged him to apply for a position at their hometown Top 40 radio station when he was only in the 10th grade. Robinson was hired on to the station and was so fast and effective in his work that he earned the nickname “Fast Eddie.” “That’s kind of how it all birthed in terms of my passion and love for radio,” Robinson says. “As soon as I finished football practice, I would go to the radio station and monitor the reels and cart machines, and then they would throw me on during the weekends. I would get classmates calling in for requests and dedications—little did they know that that was me they were talking to.”
When it came time for Robinson to graduate, however, his parents weren’t as eager to push him toward radio as a career. So, after receiving a full scholarship from ExxonMobil to pursue engineering at Prairie View A&M University, Robinson’s life direction took a turn. After realizing he was “bored with thermodynamics,” he got involved with the campus’s radio station—making many communication majors jealous along the way, he remembers.
From the outside, things seemed to come easily for Robinson. He excelled in academics and had a booming extracurricular life, including joining a fraternity. One thing, however, didn’t come so easily—he was struggling with his sexuality. Being the only child of two devout Southern Baptist parents didn’t help either, he adds. “I was doing anything and everything to not occupy my mind about my orientation,” Robinson says. “My world has been all faith-based—and it’s like, how do I deal with that? How do I come to grips with that and still be gay?”
After being hit with the “what’s next?” confusion that many post-grads experience, and spending three years working for an engineering company in Minnesota, Robinson decided to take the plunge, move to New York, pursue a graduate degree in media ecology from NYU, and make radio his full-time career. He bounced around in a few radio positions before landing a job with CBS Radio’s WFAN sports station.
It was around this time that another significant change happened in Robinson’s life—he met a man named Peter online and began a relationship with him. “It wasn’t until I met him that a light bulb lit, because I thought that this was just going to be a phase,” Robinson says. “It was just going to be something that I was going to have to deal with—meet a woman, and that’d be it. It was tough, because I was still working in this environment at WFAN where it was just unbelievably testosterone-laden. But I was closeted and right there with them, high-fiving.”
Robinson describes how being closeted sent him into “a very dark place.” He developed ulcers and herniated discs, and sought out painkillers to soothe both his physical and mental pain. “Eventually, I just felt that this was it—that the best option for me was to get off this planet, period,” he says.
But Peter was there for him throughout these dark days, helped him heal, and in 2007—the last year they were together—gave him the courage to come out to his parents. “We were together for four years—we’re still the best of friends—but I still tell him to this day, ‘You saved my life,’” Robinson says.
“My parents did not accept this at all,” he adds. “We didn’t speak for a good couple of months after that.” They have since come around, Robinson says, and credits President Obama’s coming out in favor of marriage equality as an influential factor for his parents’ evolving acceptance. “Even bringing it up today, they’re still very supportive,” he says. “And it’s incredibly surprising to me, because it seems like they’re finally seeing that I’m not in a phase, I’m completely, wholeheartedly like this.”
Robinson found a more accepting work environment as well when he moved to New York’s WNYC public radio station. There, he curated and produced cultural shows where news pieces were combined with cultural components to broaden listeners’ understanding of the topics at hand.
But at the end of 2013, Robinson took a step back to reflect, he says. “I was thinking, Wow, it’s been 15 years and I’ve worked for 15 different companies,” Robinson says. “I’m thinking to myself, Where is my son or daughter? I’m trying to figure out, How can I get a family? Because that’s really what my goal was in the very beginning. I love my parents, and I mention to them constantly about how their lives have inspired me. They’ve been married for 41 years. I want that to translate into what that looks like for me—a gay, cultural lifestyle.”
Missing Texas from his college days, Robinson applied for the morning news anchor job opening at Houston Public Media’s KUHF. When he initially didn’t hear back, he began to doubt himself—maybe the station wasn’t ready for someone who was gay and black. “I was looking at the website and I didn’t see anybody my color,” he laughs.
But when he finally got a callback and flew down for the interview, he immediately felt as if he was “around family.” “I decided to just go for it,” Robinson says. “Ever since then, everything has just been falling
Robinson has now been at the station for two months and says things couldn’t be going better. Monday through Friday he handles Morning Edition’s local news segments, curating a program that focuses less on mundane crime stories and more on “stories with substance.” “That’s kind of my philosophy for life—to understand the stories that are compelling and relevant to people’s lives,” he says.
He’s also very excited to bring more multimedia elements, such as SoundCloud clips, to the station and to work with Channel 8 on the possibility of expanding radio to television. He’s been very impressed with the quick and constant communication between the station and its listeners.
Always the avid sports fan (go Saints and Texans!), Robinson is also pioneering a new live call-in sports show called The Outfield for Sirius XM’s OutQ channel in addition to his time at KUHF. The first of its kind, the show highlights the professional athletes’ culture from the LGBT perspective. “It’s not your typical sports talk-radio show with the stats,” he says. “We bring in athletes, actors, actresses, coaches, priests—you name it—to just kind of come together in terms of understanding the issues that are happening in sports and sports culture.”
The fact that the show exists in the first place, Robinson says, is proof that the wall between the LGBT community and the sports world is beginning to be broken down. “I think what is happening is that slowly but surely this stereotype is finally being challenged,” he says. “When you think of gay—especially from a rural area—you think of Glee, you think of Broadway, you think of RuPaul. Not being judgmental of any of those, but it’s time for another sort of flavor to come to the table. We’ve got all these different flavors, but we’ve never had this hardcore masculine characteristic—gays in professional NFL football.”
The Outfield, which launched April 13, has already had some impressive names grace its airwaves—Robinson’s favorite interviews have included basketball star and coach Sheryl Swoopes and former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe. “We may bring on straight athletes, but we’re understanding their lives outside of what it is to be in sports,” he says. “It’s a matter of blending different worlds together.” He also hopes to have the opportunity to interview the parents of Michael Sam, the first active and openly gay player in the NFL.
Outside of radio, Robinson has always been interested in staying fit through mixed martial arts. Since moving here he’s also developed a love for firing ranges, and raves about the focus and clarity it gives him. “Welcome to Texas,” he laughs.