A KALW Audio Academy Graduate Makes Significant (Radio) Waves
By Guest Blogger Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
Last week was a real standout for the Audio Academy, in large part because of one street corner. Crosscurrents dedicated the entire week to airing The Intersection, a five-part series created, reported and hosted by David Boyer (’14). I’ve talked about this work of extraordinary long-form journalism before in this blog, and to witness David’s vision fulfilled after many months of hard work was deeply moving for me.
A couple of years ago, David was my mentee in the Audio Academy. He was a really driven, extraordinarily creative and highly motivated producer, and the first piece he made was an absolute joy to hear: the story of a man named D’Arcy Drollinger and the class he taught for aspiring backup dancers in San Francisco’s Castro District. It’s called “Sunday Skool,” and you can hear it by clicking here.
While he definitely enjoyed having fun, and making playful radio, David was really motivated to use the medium for a more transformative purpose: to tell stories that challenged conventional perceptions. He and I discussed, at length, how the most significant story in San Francisco was the rapidly changing economy and how it was changing the nature of the city. The mass media was already reporting on the Mission, SOMA and South Bay Districts regularly. We wanted to get ahead of the curve.
David had the idea to focus on one intersection where each corner would represent a different sense of place. And after a great deal of searching, trial and error, he decided the corner of 3rd and Jerrold in the Bayview District would be the ideal focal point. A few months later, as his final project for the Audio Academy, he created The Intersection. It was four distinct stories about a church, a fast food chain restaurant, a college prep program and an organic pizza shop. Listen to the pieces here.
The Intersection was different. It was personal. Very emotional. Insightful and caring. Thoughtful, open and honest. We thought so highly of the project, we featured it during a membership drive, anchoring the pieces with a conversation with one of the Bayview’s longtime community leaders, Joe Marshall. And when David graduated from the Audio Academy in 2014, we found out he was just getting started with his project.
David applied for and received two grants to continue his work, from Cal Humanities and the San Francisco Arts Council. He decided to focus on another intersection in San Francisco subject to significant changes: the corner of Golden Gate and Leavenworth in the Tenderloin. Then David utilized some of his true gifts. He sat down with people. He listened. He spent time connecting with people in a community, finding out where they are at, what they want, what makes life hard and how they relate with one another. And after nearly a year of conversations, David’s podcast The Intersection was ready to be released.
It started as a podcast, released weekly, as a serial. Then last week, KALW had the honor of hosting the broadcast debut of The Intersection over four days. One story about the struggles of a drug addict to leave her difficult street life behind her. One story about what it’s like to be a middle-school girl growing up in the hardscrabble Tenderloin. One story about the work done inside one of San Francisco’s oldest union hiring halls. One story about how people living and working in the neighborhood coexist with drug dealers. And one story about how a high-profile literacy program is moving in and what that might mean for the neighborhood. You should hear these stories. Get started by clicking here.
The podcast was noticed by iTunes, making its list of “new and noteworthy” podcasts. It’s been buzzed about in blogs around the Bay Area, and it’s been noticed by producers at WNYC, public radio’s biggest podcast powerhouse. And when we aired it on Crosscurrents, three of the pieces quickly entrenched in the top four “most listened to” spots. David is making meaningful, impactful radio.
So, yeah. Last week was a remarkable one for the Audio Academy. In large part because of one street corner. And because of a graduate who is making sure its story is told well.