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You Don’t Know Jack

Longtime LGBTQ activist and radio star leads KPFT into a new era.

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Jack Valinski

Last month, a popular activist from Houston’s LGBTQ community assumed a new professional media position in the heart of Montrose. Affable gay advocate Jack Valinski was named KPFT 90.1 FM radio’s interim general manager.

The appointment is great news for Houstonians of many stripes. Gregarious, intelligent, and exceedingly good-natured, there may be no one on Earth better suited for the challenge.

And a challenge it is sure to be, with listener-sponsored community radio stations dropping like flies in the U.S. This form of radio usually has no corporate sponsors, so individual patrons must donate money, talent, and time to keep a station alive. While paying the bills is a constant concern, community radio results in content that is not beholden to anyone. Historically, KPFT has fostered free thought, free speech, full-frontal creativity, and sometimes chaos.

Jack’s Queer Voices has kept our LGBTQ community well-informed. It has helped new organizations gain visibility, and has showcased LGBTQ newsmakers.

Valinski knows what he’s getting into; he was the founding producer of KPFT’s Queer Voices, the weekly program whose goal was to provide Houston’s LGBTQ community with information unavailable from other local media outlets. Most will agree that the station exceeds its objectives to this day.

“Jack’s Queer Voices has kept our LGBTQ community well-informed. It has helped new organizations gain visibility, and has showcased LGBTQ newsmakers. It has been there during natural and political hurricanes. It shared our grief when Matt Shepard was killed, celebrated when Annise Parker was elected Houston’s first openly lesbian mayor, and marveled when the U.S. Supreme Court established marriage equality as the law,” states Brandon Wolf, Houston’s highly regarded historian, author, and LGBTQ activist.

“As we head into the incredibly important 2020 election, the radio program will be there, keeping us motivated and inspired. Queer Voices is a vital thread in our community’s fabric,” Wolf concludes.

Producing quality radio content is not Valinski’s only gift. He offers KPFT more than 40 years of experience in professional radio operations, having worked for ABC and Metro Traffic. For the latter, he managed more than 1,000 stations as Metro’s national operations director.

Still, KPFT is a different animal—a nonprofit agency, and largely a volunteer effort. Here again, Valinski is a standout who has done it all—volunteer recruiting, fundraising, community organizing, FCC compliance oversight, and technical project management. 

Valinski’s ability to organize came into sharp focus when, in 1982, he acted as one of the original founders of Pride Houston. Thanks in large part to this generous gentleman, the month of June now blazes with rainbow color, awareness, and appreciation throughout the city.

Humble to a fault, Valinski laughs off his deep well of talent and his devotion to Houston, dismissing his contributions and cringing at any mention of credit.

”I have always known that I didn’t know it all. In truth, I have been very fortunate to find and surround myself with people who did know what they were doing,” Valinski states, laughing.

“I’ve known Jack for almost twenty years, and consider him one of my mentors,” says JD Doyle, the city’s leading LGBTQ-history archivist.

“In 1999, Jack invited me to host a radio segment, which would be called Queer Music Heritage, on KPFT. I had no experience, but he helped me get it going and trusted me to develop it into what would become a fifteen-year run,” Doyle continues.

“I seriously doubt that I would have gone on to my other history work and websites without that initial push. Jack will do well as station manager, as I have long marveled at how well he works with people, and his understanding of politics and the city,” the historian concludes.

For the last seven years, Valinski has been working in the Mayor’s Citizens Assistance Office. His unenviable task was to handle complaints lodged with the City by Houstonians who were not satisfied with a service-request resolution. As one might suspect, there was a lot of yelling involved. Valinski’s good temper served him well through it all, and he excelled at the job.

“I never took offense at the yelling,” he remembers. “Often, the citizens were frustrated and needed to be heard and understood. They had asked for help, but often did not receive it. I would listen, then I would say, ‘Let me see how I can help.’” Then Valinski would solve the problem.

Now you know Jack.

What:  KPFT 90.1-FM’s Queer Voices radio talk show hosted by Jack Valinski
When:  Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Info and program archive:  kpft.org/programming/newstalk/queer-voices

This article appears in the September 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Kim Hogstrom

Kim Hogstrom is a regular contributor to OutSmart Magazine.

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