Audio Academy Alums Help Educate Voters While Freshman Learns the Magic of a Great Story
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
This has been one heck of an election season, hasn’t it?!
I just want to give a quick shout out to all of the Audio Academy members past and present who contributed to KALW‘s exhaustive election coverage. Our station did more than it ever did before — and it had to, since there were so many local and state ballot measures to consider — and the training we’ve provided for our Academy fellows really helped them step up and be heard. Check out some examples:
• Angela Johnston (’14): Why your signature is worth so much this election season
• Jeremy Dalmas ( ’14): What exactly are these municipal bonds on your ballot?
• Liza Veale (’15): Proposition Q: This would ban homeless tent encampments. Opponents say there’s an alternative.
• Hannah Kingsley-Ma (’15): Proposition 51: Debate about the best way to fix California schools.
• Eli Wirtschafter (’16): Measure RR: BART asks voters to fund a major rebuild
Altogether, our team produced nearly 50 stories about election-related issues to help voters understand their ballots. And at last check, we’ve had more than 10,000 clicks on our elections homepage, showing that the audience is really listening to what we have to say.
While our training is really making a significant difference here in the Bay Area, our work is rippling outward to reach an increasingly national audience. We heard news last week that our friends at San Quentin won the Radiotopia Podquest! Really extraordinary — there were more than 1,500 applicants — and well earned! It means that a national podcasting network will support the work of inmate storytellers, many of whom have trained with KALW on the San Quentin Prison Report. The new project is called Ear Hustle, and it really got its hop from KALW. They acknowledge that in this article. Check it out!
Check in with Academy alum Jack Detsch:
Audio Academy alum Jack Detsch (’15) has been working at a particularly pertinent and interesting job since he left KALW. He’s writing about cybersecurity for the Christian Science Monitor. His recent articles include:
Jack’s a great writer and reporter, and it’s wonderful to see his work reaching an international audience. A few years ago, he was building his skills in Oakland reporting largely on wage equity issues with stories like this one about the complexities of raising the minimum wage:
Congratulations on your successes, Jack!
Thoughts from Academy Fellow Kanwalroop Singh:
A month into the Audio Academy, I was assigned to write my first pitch for my first ever radio story, which was supposed to focus on the Portola neighborhood of San Francisco. I found myself completely lost and unsure of what to do. I had barely ever been to this neighborhood and I knew nothing about it. I walked up and down the main street of the neighborhood, scanning the storefronts and the streets, hoping desperately that a story would appear before my eyes like magic. It didn’t. I entered shop after shop and asked questions at random to storeowners and customers and strangers. It was painful. Especially because I grew up very shy, taught never to talk to or trust strangers. It was a tactic of survival passed down by the traumatic experiences of my parents. And now I was doing that very thing that I dreaded all my life. After an hour of this, I happened upon an herbal store in the neighborhood. I knew there was some magic there. I trusted my instinct and I found the seed of what would bloom into my first story–which I am working on reporting now.
At the Audio Academy, I have found that I am challenged intensely and supported intensely. I am nurtured and encouraged. I am allowed to wander and take the time to learn. I struggle and panic about my assignments, but because I can feel that others have faith in me, I learn to have faith in myself. This is the single most important thing I have learned thus far. Indeed, I have learned to fact check, pitch, interview, and gather sound–but mostly I have learned that all of these things are impossible if I don’t believe that I can do them. I find the whole experience of the Audio Academy is like looking for a story, it requires trying and trying despite the difficulty of it and the not-knowing-what-you-are-doing, but inevitably there is learning and magic and a great story waiting at the end.