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Reporter Paul Adrian heading for Harvard, leaving Fox4

Paul Adrian hopes to reinvent himself and his beat. Photo: Ed Bark

One of Fox4's best and brightest, reporter Paul Adrian, will be leaving the station in late June to study for the next year at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

He then plans to return to his native Texas with an eye toward reinvigorating the lost art of covering state government.

Adrian, 40, hopes to set up his own independent unit of print and broadcast investigative journalists. That's an ambitious undertaking, but Adrian figures the field is wide open, particularly in TV news.

"It scares me that so many people are leaving TV journalism," Adrian says in an interview with unclebarky.com. "My goal is not to get out. My goal is to get into this field more deeply. I'm taking a big risk. It'll be either a really smart thing I'm doing or a really dumb thing. But I'm willing to leave what's been a wonderful job to go and try to become a better reporter."

Adrian, who joined Fox4 seven years ago, stressed that he's not unhappy with the station. But he's disheartened by his profession's growing disinterest in covering the Texas state legislature, whose decisions have far wider-ranging implications than live overhead chopper shots of the latest car wreck or police chase.

"Typically now, it's a quick hit," he says of state government coverage. "We're down in Austin, the session opens and we're back. It's not Fox4's problem. It's an industry problem. We've collectively decided not to invest in this coverage, and it bugs me."

In his letter of resignation, Adrian praised Fox4 news director Maria Barrs as "a great boss."

"In my estimation," he said, "the KDFW-TV news department has more going for it than any news team in the city and most in the country. I attribute a lot of our success to your leadership and your support of hard-hitting, in-depth journalism."

His most recent investigative report for Fox4 was on the effectiveness of state tort reform enacted in 2003 to curb "frivolous" malpractice suits and keep doctors from leaving Texas. It's not a subject that quickens the pulses of most news managers or viewers. But Adrian made it work in times when stories on miracle diets and new breakthroughs in cosmetic surgery are both encouraged and heavily promoted.

"Government is at the heart of the stories that I'm proudest of over the last seven years," Adrian says. "But for better or worse, what we grew up with in television news is changing. So I've got to figure out, 'How can I keep my craft alive?' If I'm not at peace with myself, I'm going to be frustrated."

Adrian and his wife, Jade Kurian, a reporter for the HD News network, have a 17-month-old daughter named Lark. They'll mostly remain in North Texas while Adrian commutes back and forth for the next year.

"Any absence from journalism is going to create a longing to go out and do what I love to do -- shine a light, expose problems and try to nudge our political leaders to do the right thing," Adrian says.

Upon his planned return, he'll try to do just that as an entrepreneur who hopes to service a wide range of broadcast clients.

"I hope I'm aligned with somebody in every TV market in the state," Adrian says. "I just don't think you can be informed enough on what's good government and what isn't.

Barrs, who has a policy of not commenting on personnel matters, will be challenged with rebuilding Fox4's newsroom during the summer months. As previously posted, two other 9 p.m. news mainstays, reporters Jeff Crilley and Jason Overstreet, also will be leaving the station in June to start new ventures.

Heather Hays, the 9 p.m. co-anchor, is scheduled to go on maternity leave next month. And Fox4 could lose Good Day co-anchor Megan Henderson to Fox News Channel. She'll be talking with FNC chairman Roger Ailes about possible opportunities during her second guest-anchor stint early next month on Fox & Friends Weekend.