Photography by Jessica P. Turner.

Drama ticked up on Dallas’ talk-radio scene last year when Mike Rhyner, a retired founder of KTCK The Ticket, helped launch a new station at 97.1 — The Freak. Neighborhood mom Julie Dobbs was paying close attention: She had already been tapped as one of several former KTCK staffers invited to join The Freak.

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A female voice on either station is rare. Dobbs, bolstered by her legitimate sports-reporting and broadcasting chops, fit right in at both.

The rising local star and her husband, Dallas Stars video coach Kelly Forbes, purchased their North Lake Highlands home from its original owner, Dobbs’ grandparents, Julia and Carl Ziegler. Dobbs says she can’t imagine living anywhere else. 

The past few years, Dobbs has survived breast cancer, created a popular podcast (The Mom Game), gained a stepson and mothered two children, all while navigating male-dominated professions.

While on holiday break from her spot on The Freak’s morning show, The Speakeasy, Dobbs shared thoughts on DFW’s talk-radio rivalry, what it’s like for a woman on guy-talk radio and let us in on her hard-won battles off the air.

You were KTCK’s first female daytime show host — did that, or the dude-talk format, worry you?

I came to it from a different angle — born in Lake Highlands but moved to Austin at 8, I wasn’t a lifelong fan like some. I was into sports, so when I returned to Dallas, I just listened to Norm Hitzges, Bob Sturm and Dan McDowell, because they talk about the Stars. I met my husband when we both worked with the Stars, so I cared about the Stars.

Maybe I did not fully know what I was getting into.

Most of my reporting career was in TV, where I crossed paths with Sean Bass (sports director at The Ticket), which is why I decided to apply. I started part time. When the reporting job came open on the Bob and Dan show in 2018, I got it.

Those guys were the ones who needed to worry, it seems. I mean, early on you confronted McDowell on air about a derogatory comment he made years before …

Yes. It wasn’t planned, but while bantering, Dan said he remembered meeting me at a Dallas Stars game (in 2010). I reminded him that after we met, he told someone I was “press-box hot” (a backhanded compliment implying she’s attractive for someone in the media area at a hockey game).

Photography by Jessica P. Turner.

What resulted was “radio gold,” some media members have said.

Well, it turned out that the person scheduled for an interview for the next segment canceled, so we spent that time untangling the story of the press-box incident. 

Did you and Dan McDowell become friends after that?

He knew that it wasn’t some big elaborate plan. There was this unexpected opening, and that’s when I dropped that bomb. It showed him that I could hang, or be one of the boys, if you will, and, of course, we’ve become really good friends since.

How did listeners take to you?

Being able to find my voice while on such a big stage was usually fun. But you say something someone doesn’t like, and they’ll tweet at you or email something mean. That was something I had to work through, because there is a medium between being totally yourself and trying to not offend anyone. You’re walking a very thin line all the time.

Why did you quit The Ticket?

I started there right after my second baby. I was pregnant when I interviewed. The timing was hard. That third year on the job, I was asking myself if it was worth it. It’s no secret my role wasn’t financially lucrative. You get to a point where after hiring a babysitter you’re losing money. But it was heartbreaking leaving. I even said I would stay at the salary if they could reduce the hours to let me pick up my son from school, but they said there’s a line of people out the door wanting the job, which is true.

Then The Freak came calling?

I was still friends with The Ticket, still had my Mom Game podcast with Emily Jones (who covers the Texas Rangers). I was working with Mike Rhyner on a podcasting platform, so he’s the one that gave me the heads up and said “Would you be interested if this (new radio station) happens?” I was like, 100% Are you kidding me?

Ticket loyalists were shocked when Rhyner and other ex-Ticket talent went to a new station — did you feel that?

The listeners are so passionate. They feel like they know you, and they really do. And for the most part, everybody was nice. But I saw that some of them were stressing or didn’t know how to feel. It made me sad.

That’s why you put out a statement?

I posted a personal letter on social media because I wanted to be very candid and explain that there is room for both radio stations. And that we are all just trying to do best for our families. In my mind it was never supposed to be some big battle. 

How about your Ticket friends?

I still talk to my Ticket friends and reached out to most of them as soon as I was able to discuss it. They couldn’t have been more happy for me, for my career and that I get to come work with some of my favorite (former Ticket-ers) Rhyner, Michael Gruber, Danny Balis and my new family of co-hosts (Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT” Turner and Matt Cather). They get that.

Why did you want to live in Lake Highlands?

We bought the home from my grandmother, its original owner. My mom and stepdad both are LHHS alumni. I just love the feeling of being close to downtown but in your own nook. And we have 25 kids on our street — hockey and soccer games break out in our yard almost every day after school — the sense of community is a dream come true.

You’re skilled at embracing change, adapting, taking reasonable risk —  what makes you that way?

At 28 I was diagnosed with cancer, went through radiation and a double mastectomy. That was when I was covering the Stars for Fox, and I tried to work as much as I could, keep as normal a life as possible.

That really did change my perspective. I decided to stay positive and not dwell on the small stuff, which is everything. So I said, you have this opportunity, do it. It’s early mornings, it’s challenging, but you can figure it out. And this is so worth getting up for. We are all so excited about where this station is going.

This interview has been edited for brevity.