AUSTIN (KXAN) — The longest-serving news anchor in Austin is stepping down from the desk in mid-July after 32 years at the helm of KXAN’s evening newscasts.
“It can feel like a thousand years ago or just yesterday, depending on the situation. I’ve had a great time working here. It’s a great job in a great city,” Hadlock said, reflecting on his storied career that was, of course, filled with stories.
Highlighting Hadlock’s career
Viewers first saw Hadlock on KXAN at 6 p.m. Aug. 29, 1990. He reported outside Waco in 1993 at the end of the Branch Davidian standoff, drove along Interstate 35 to cover the deadly F5 tornado in Jarrell in 1997, reported from New York City after 9/11 and from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Hadlock recently sat down with Daniel Marin, KXAN’s politics reporter who will ascend to the anchor desk full time as Hadlock retires. Hadlock told Marin that of all the stories he covered, going to Cuba in 1998 to cover Pope John Paul II’s visit has stayed with him.
“Before we went down there, the producer, camera guy and I were talking about ‘how are we going to be received?'” Hadlock recalled. “Cubans were told ‘Americans were bad, that’s why we’re in poverty.’ We’ll just brace ourselves for a not-so-friendly reception. The opposite was the case. People were friendly, curious to know and meet us. It was really an eye opener. A very special time.”
Marin, too, has covered the Pope’s visit — but it was Francis this time, who traveled to Juarez, Mexico, just across the border from Marin’s hometown El Paso. Marin was the main anchor at Nexstar sister station KTSM — but he didn’t start out there.
Coming back to Austin
Like Hadlock, Marin attended the University of Texas in Austin and “fell in love” with the city. He went home, got an internship at a news station there, took a break for a few years to play keys in a band called The Royalty. But news called him back.
“I’ve had every job in the newsroom. I’ve produced the newscast, I’ve edited the video, I’ve reported, I’ve anchored,” Marin said.
“Same with me. Gotta work your way up,” Hadlock replied.
Marin’s now worked in news for more than 15 years. He covered the mass shooting in El Paso in 2020, which “came out of nowhere. Tested our community, but we came out stronger, as communities tend to do — resilient ones.”
He saw first hand again the destructive toll of gun violence this year in Uvalde. When he arrived that day, as information about the 19 children and teachers who died was still coming out, he spoke to the father of one of the victims.
“He was speaking about his daughter — heartbreaking. He had to keep changing tenses to keep reminding himself — at that point she was still alive — correct himself,” Marin said. “Very stoic, still processing, but in that moment he was OK telling us about his daughter because he wanted that story out there.”
A changing Austin
Whether in the field or behind the anchor desk, Marin sees his job as serving those in Central Texas with in-depth and investigative reporting.
“It’s still all about people, right? We’re people telling other people’s stories – no matter what the tech is – how we receive news in the future,” Marin said as he and Hadlock reflected on Austin. The Austin of 1990 when Hadlock began working here looks a lot different from today, but what hasn’t changed, Hadlock asserted, is the people.
There are even a few longtime Austin spots that have stuck around, even as the downtown “skyline changes hourly,” Marin joked. Hadlock’s favorite place, which he went to ever since he was at UT Austin, is Matt’s El Rancho, which is about to celebrate its 70th year.
Once he signs off the air for the last time, viewers may just be able to catch Hadlock there. He said he’s still mulling over what exactly to do in retirement. He loves to travel, but beyond that, the future is wide open.
“It’s a weird feeling to be stepping away but I think the time has come and I’m very happy for you to get this position,” Hadlock told Marin.
“Robert Hadlock – on behalf of KXAN, on behalf of Austin, all of Central Texas, all of our viewers. Thank you so much for everything you did for 32 years – your service to our community. It’s not going to be the same without you,” Marin replied.
“Thank you, Daniel. I’m very happy for you,” Hadlock said. “I know what you’re getting into and it’s a good thing. Believe me – it’s a good thing. You’re going to see a lot and experience a lot. I’ll be watching from home for sure.”