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Posted by on Feb 19, 2019 in ACE Learning Center, ACE School Report, Continuing Education | 0 comments

An Epic Journey from Comic Books to KALW Audio Academy

By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Listener Supported Public Radio and Porfirio Rangel, Audio Academy Fellow ‘19

One of the great pleasures I have in working with KALW‘s Audio Academy is getting to know people with all kinds of backgrounds and interests. And with today’s blog post, I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of our fellows: Porfirio Rangel. Here are some of his thoughts about his experience with us.

Porfirio Rangel on his first day at Audio Academy.

I first heard of the Audio Academy from a producer I worked with while interning at KGO Radio. Before I left, he asked what kind of career I wanted. I said I wanted to work in radio, to do news stories, tell people about events going on in their area, & do audio editing. He told me to look no further than KALW’s Audio Academy program. I checked it out and turns out he was right.

I applied for it in the early part of 2017 and didn’t get accepted. That was a huge blow for me. At the time, I was already thinking of moving from San Francisco, and not getting in gave me more of a reason to leave. I told myself I would take the rest of the year before I made up my mind. Nothing came up. But come 2018, Ben Trefny emailed me to reapply for the Audio Academy. At first I had my reservations, because I could not take rejection twice. But I had nothing to lose and decided to give it another go. I made a demo, and editing audio again brought back the feeling that I love doing it. That passion must’ve showed because this time I got accepted! It’s something I’ve had to learn working in radio: there’s going to be so much rejection, but it only takes that one “Yes” that turns it all around.

So, I’m in. What now? I went to the station on the first day of orientation with so much excitement about meeting the other members, the reporters, & seeing all that audio equipment again. As I got to know the other fellows, I became easily intimidated. I am the youngest of the group and probably the one with the least experience. You have someone who works with Google, another who has done projects for National Geographic, and a journalist who has been writing for years. Who am I? I’m the one who reads comics, attends drag shows, & scours social media to check out the next outfit Adam Lambert is wearing. How am I even on the same level as all the other fellows? Again, that self-doubt that came into play last year somehow entered my life once again. But I’m already in. This is different. I have to step it up and “sashay away” all that insecurity, because it’s not cute.

Being at KALW has been a rewarding experience. There are a lot of tasks that we have to get done in and out of the newsroom. But it’s so hard to complain about them if I love doing it. It’s fun looking for news stories to add to the morning news digest, writing up a newscast for stories that are trending that day, or finding people to interview for a story. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s something I can be happy that I’m getting done. Plus the feeling of completing the assignments is like how Spider-Man feels whenever he defeats the Green Goblin: tired & exhausted but satisfied.

Now, it’s been hard to find my voice and get a story done, but my talented-brilliant-incredible-amazing-show-stopping mentor, Eli Wirtschafter, has shown me the ways of the force. Every week, we fellows meet up with our mentors to ask for help, vent, seek advice, or get a shoulder to cry on. I know I can always rely on Eli for any help in & out of the station. He’s so willing to basically put his work on hold for a bit to check up on me and just be there. One of the first things he asked me when we first met was: What are my interests? I told him I’m a pop culture person. It took a while to figure out how I can use that to make a piece, but eventually he introduced me to this segment called Bay Area Beats. It’s a profile segment where we ask Bay Area artists about their work, influences, and connection to the Bay Area. Perfect!

Porfirio wins the newsroom award after voicing his first story.
Credit: Ben Trefny

Working on my first piece was nothing but unbelievable. I got to interview Kat Robichaud, a singer I had been a fan of for years, and it was like a dream come true. I was nervous because this was going to be my first time interviewing someone. I was fangirling on the inside, but, ultimately, I just wanted to make my first piece good. The interview went well. The next step was mixing. That was so much fun! It was long & tedious, but it was something I was very proud of. I brought it to my editor, Gabe Grabin, to listen to and make changes if necessary. To my surprise, he really liked it and thought it was mixed very well for a first draft. Hearing that, honestly, was the best feeling in the world. At that point, any self-doubt I had about my skills or whether I belonged in the Audio Academy was completely washed away. Now, I can happily say that it’s going to air, on the actual radio, very soon!

This is only the beginning. I’m in the process of getting another Bay Area Beats done and trying to get a news feature written up. Being on this journey in the Audio Academy can only be explained as blessed. I am grateful. Now, as a drag queen once said, “You better work.”

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