Alumnus receives PRCA award for media excellence

From development of his blog to covering and promoting rodeos, Ted Harbin, a Fort Hays State University alumnus, has been busy chasing his dreams.

This past December, Harbin was honored with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's Media Award for Excellence in Print Journalism during an awards banquet in conjunction with the PRCA annual convention and the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

"For me, the awards come every day that I get to tell stories about the people of rodeo," said Harbin, 43, of Maryville, Mo. "I'm very blessed to do what I love for a living, and I wish everyone else could have that opportunity.

"I'm also blessed with a tremendous family, primarily my wife, Lynette, who has been my biggest supporter since the day I met her."

Harbin now owns Rodeo Media Relations, a company that promotes rodeo and its people. He has served as media director for all aspects of rodeo, including community events, contractors and athletes. Harbin has more than 25 years experience in traditional media.

"I covered rodeo in college and at virtually every newspaper for which I worked," Harbin said. "After three years in Dodge City, which hosts the biggest professional rodeo in Kansas, I saw the need for coverage to be stronger. After covering rodeo for The Hutchinson News, I began volunteering a week of my vacation to serve as the media director of the Kansas Largest Night Rodeo in Pretty Prairie, and I realized the marriage between my experience in the traditional media and my passion for rodeo.

"After working in Oklahoma City for six years -- most of which I served as the Oklahoman's rodeo beat writer -- I decided to chase my dreams, so I developed Rodeo Media Relations."

Harbin said while his focus is promoting rodeo, he will help anyone promote anything.

"Another aspect of the business is freelance writing," said Harbin. "No matter if I’m writing a news release or producing a feature story for a magazine, I’m just telling other people’s stories. The stories are already great; I’m just the medium to help get them out to everyone."

Originally from Leoti, Harbin graduated from Trego Community High School in WaKeeney and Pratt Community College before attending FHSU, where he earned a degree in mass communication in 1989.

"The Communications Department at Fort Hays State in the late 1980s was one of the best in the country," Harbin said. "I also loved the university's size and all the activities I could be involved in while going to school.

"We got hands-on training under the gun of University Leader deadlines and highly focused editors. I learned the value of constructive criticism and the importance of getting the facts correct.”

In his newspaper career, Harbin worked at Kansas publications in Atwood, Dodge City, Hays, Hutchinson and Smith Center.

Harbin writes regularly for The Kansas City Star and Women's Pro Rodeo News, but in 2010, he also wrote for Western Horseman, Ketchpen Magazine, Persimmon Hill and several other periodicals and websites. He also created a website,, which provides a variety of rodeo stories.

"I created the blog because I think there are so many great storylines out there that just aren't being told," he said. "My goal is to have serve as the place to go on the Web where you can enjoy the behind-the-chutes information on rodeo."

Harbin said the people in rodeo are what keep him involved in the sport.

"We say in rodeo that we're one big family, and it's an attitude that is shared by almost everyone involved in the sport," he said. "The people are hard-working and caring, much like my family and friends in western Kansas. The competitors are talented and fight for every dollar they earn, much like my grandfather did when he farmed and raised animals through the Great Depression.

"The people have fostered my love for rodeo, and I'm blessed by that."

It’s all a matter of passion for the longtime journalist.

"I've had the opportunity to work with some of the most talented people in journalism and rodeo, and I've learned so much from each of them," Harbin said. "I wear my Montana Silversmiths buckle very proudly, but I do so in tribute to every person who has assisted me along the way, from helping me be a better editor to the cowboys, cowgirls, stock contractors and committees that have hired me. I realize I'm very blessed to do what I love and to have the friends and family that have been so supportive of me.

"Since my first reporting class at Fort Hays State, my job has been to tell other people's stories. That's pretty awesome."

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