Jun 11, 2024 - Culture

Taco Talk: KUAF's Kyle Kellams hits his stride

A composite image of a man in a tie sitting at a picnic table; one looking at camera, the other shaking a radish slice.

Kyle Kellams, news director and acting general manager for KUAF-FM. Photos: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Kyle Kellams can't walk to lunch without being stopped for a quick hug hello.

  • It's not so much celebrity, but his status as a backbone of the community that causes heads to turn.

The setup: One of the most distinctive voices in the Ozarks and acting general manager of National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate KUAF-FM, Kellams met me for tacos at Los Compas food truck on Dickson Street in Fayetteville.

  • We both ordered the Combo 2 ($14) with four beef birria-style tacos and a side of consommé for dipping.

State of play: He's been news director at the station for 36 years but stepped into the interim position when former general manager Leigh Wood joined NPR's national development team in March.

The big picture: A national search for a new GM is underway, which Kellams estimates may take a few more months, and two additional new hires started in early May, so KUAF is in transition, he said.

  • Change can be good. Kellams points out that he couldn't fill a full hour of the station's now daily "Ozarks at Large" program 35 years ago, but so much is now happening in NWA, the team could almost do two-hour shows.

Between the lines: At 61, Kellams is reflective of the evolution of NWA and KUAF, and how he intends to hike through the rest of his work life.

  • "I want to spend the last part of my career really doing what I want to do — telling stories," he said.
  • "We're not afforded tomorrow, and I know that I don't have a lot of time left, so I want to really spend it doing what I think is valuable for listeners and brings me challenge and joy."
A photo of a taco on a paper plate.
The tacos and conversation were so good, I almost forgot to take a photo of the food. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

The bottom line: "I think the exciting thing about Northwest Arkansas right now is there's so much going on that other people don't know about. So, I want to be that liaison."

  • Top of mind are more diverse voices and hearing from people who don't get a lot of exposure in other media.
  • "What we want to do with the show, and with the station, is reflect the community we are," he said.

The verdict: "I can't identify all the flavors in there, but they're all really great," he said of the consommé.

  • "These are gooood," Kellams said with a sort of growl about the tacos.

🌮Taco Talk is a regular feature. We sample a taqueria with the movers, shakers, artists and bakers of NWA, and rap about news in their world.

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