Floods, Demonstrations, Sex Trafficking, Syrian Refugees and ProTools Are All Part of the KALW Audio Academy Experience
By Guest Blogger Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
We’ve started the new year with some exciting work at KALW. In order to boost the “must-listen” nature of Crosscurrents, we made some quick-turnaround reporting assignments, and current and previous members of the Audio Academy really stepped up to make it happen.
Our environmental reporter, Angela Johnston (’14) started last week with an update on how the huge storms affected Northern California. Her work has been a great public service, from alerting listeners to the dangers of a rising Russian River in one story, to giving a sense of how communities like East Palo Alto have been preparing for flood conditions in another.
Current Academy fellow Cari Spivack (’17) continued to produce at a very high level, reporting, Tuesday, on demonstrations at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital held by doctors and nurses concerned about possible cuts to the Affordable Care Act.
Our economics reporter Jeremy Dalmas (’14) reported, Wednesday, on labor protests across the University of California system. It’s further evidence to me of the high value our audience gets out of our beat reporter system — and many of those journalists were trained through the Audio Academy.
Liza Veale (’15), our housing and homelessness reporter, repurposed a piece she made about sex trafficking to air on Wednesday, which was National Human Trafficking Awareness Day. She got some kudos from members of our audience, including this comment:
I learned a lot from it. I appreciated how it started with what I knew about trafficking and then took me into the unintended consequences of enforcement and what happens to people on the street vs. the Internet. And then that powerful final clip about the root cause being poverty. Wow. Great writing. Great cuts. Great structure.
We also recently received a heartwarming note from a listener on the rebroadcast of a story from Audio Academy alum Ian Lewis (’16) about a night minister who walks the streets of the Tenderloin:
I heard a lovely piece this AM about a night priest on the streets of San Francisco. I had hoped to send it on to a Catholic friend. Will it be available at some point on your website?
In fact, it’s right here.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Audio Academy alum Daphne Matziaraki (’14), this week, about her celebrated documentary film 4.1 Miles, which shows a day in the life of a Greek Coast Guard captain charged with saving the lives of thousands of Syrian refugees. It’s a finalist for an Academy Award nomination, and we’ll find out if it makes the cut next week. Meanwhile, check out the short version or, better, the long version of our conversation.
Finally, five members of our current Audio Academy class took advantage of a weekend tutorial in the audio editing program ProTools led by mentors Julie Caine and Jen Chien. Check out the picture of Jeremy Jue, Josiah Luis Alderete, Boawen Wang, Greer McVay and Claire Stremple hard at work! They’re learning!
Check in with Audio Academy alum Liza Veale (’15):
Liza has become an invaluable part of our KALW News Department, working the housing and homelessness beat and line producing Crosscurrents shows two days a week. Here are some thoughts she has to share about her work:
Sometimes being a reporter feels like a cruel way to engage with the world. When my interview subject gets emotional or their story gets disturbing, my story gets better. When I can get them to let down their guard and talk to me in an intimate way, my tape gets better—and the chances that they’ll feel betrayed when they hear it later, go up. I can never portray people in my stories the way they want to be portrayed. If i’m not outright disputing or undermining their position, I’m inevitably leaving out something they care about because I don’t have room to do them justice. But they’ve trusted me to tell their story for them—to make an expression of them out their in the world—it’s a trust I almost always feel like I’ve betrayed to some extent.
But my editors are teaching me what to do about this. I’m learning how to play devil’s advocate in my interviews. My impulse is to avoid being antagonistic because it makes people uncomfortable, it makes them like you less, and there’s a risk that they’ll pull out of the story if they glean that it isn’t sympathetic to them. But, there’s a way to do it—after you’ve established rapport—that interview subjects will respect. Explain that you’re giving them an opportunity to address the qualms or doubts that some listeners inevitably will have. Try to prove them wrong in the interview, rather than in the story (effectively “behind their back”). If you do it right, you’re not just covering your ethical bases, you’re getting better material—maybe they can defend themselves better than you expected. The good vibes in the interview might go tense, but at least you don’t have to imagine bad vibes coming your way from the time the story airs on the radio for eternity.
A few words from current Audio Academy Fellow Greer McVay:
I’ve worked in communications and public relations for over two decades but never quite felt like I was tapped into what makes my heart sing. Just prior to joining KALW’s Audio Academy I was able to narrow my career aspirations to finding ways to contribute my voice to the national dialogue on politics and culture. Without knowing where to start, I applied for the Audio Academy as a way to learn the radio business and understand how to tell the stories we all encounter daily to an audience that needs information, perspective and examples showing the way forward.
The KALW family could not be more supportive of my personal goals. The collective knowledge of the news team makes every day a unique learning experience that challenges me to push beyond my own expectations and explore the medium on levels I hadn’t considered. From mastering the technical aspects of production to listening to the “silence” of room tone or the roar of my inner voice, the KALW Audio Academy has, so far, been an invaluable component on the journey to reaching my dreams.