Audio Academy at KALW Learns Pitch Techniques and Audience Desires During Visitors Week
By Guest Blogger Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
When we were setting up the Audio Academy syllabus for the year, there was one week that everybody circled. Visitors week: a week when people who make public media as we know it come in and talk with our class. That happened last week, and as expected, it was one of the most dynamic of the year.
On Monday, longtime public radio producer Marianne McCune and one-time KALW trainee Luisa Beck came in to talk about the work they do for Detour, a San Francisco-based app that provides audio for walking tours around cities. A lot of public radio people have been finding well-paid creative work with the outlet, and this was a good opportunity for our Academy to get a sense of how they work. Marianne is a real hero in the public radio world, and she talked about her work both as a reporter at WNYC in New York and as a teacher with Radio Rookies, a training program out of the station.
It was also fun to catch up with Luisa, who made some a variety of really great stories for Crosscurrents about people reentering society after long prison sentences. Check those pieces out, here. We had a big turnout for the conversation, and Academy members Tammy Drummond and Geraldine Ah-Sue pitched stories to Detour.
Tuesday brought Joe Rosenberg from one of the fastest growing shows on public radio, Snap Judgement. Their offices are in Oakland, and several KALW alums have worked with them on stories and in production. Joe talked about the meticulous pitch process Snap employs as well as the intensive story workshop meetings they have for every piece in the weekly, hour-long show. Then he fielded live pitches from Academy members Truc Nguyen and Lisa Bartfai.
seminar on Wednesday. TCR is a great outlet for our students and staffers to pitch, because it’s locally-based at KQED public radio, but it’s got one of the largest reaches of any public radio news program, with outlets around the entire state carrying its daily and weekly program. We had a great conversation about the changing nature of what the audience wants, focusing on reporting with personality while retaining strict journalistic ethics, and it was really nice to connect with our colleagues at the Bay Area’s other NPR affiliate. Luisa Cardoza and Eli Wirtschafter pitched stories, and, as you may remember from another blog post, Eli has already had a story run on TCR.
We saved the biggest organization for last, with NPR Western Bureau Chief Jason DeRose joining us by Skype on Thursday. He’s a great friend of KALW, giving us sound advice on stories to pitch for national, and recently placing stories from several of us (including me, Julie Caine, Jen Chien and Judy Silber) on NPR news magazines. In fact, it was during a pitch session a few years ago that Jen had her story about the tribulations of City College of San Francisco get accepted for air on All Things Considered. Ian Lewis and Shereen Adel pitched stories to Jason.
I couldn’t be there for that, though, because I was invited to present to a radio journalism class at the University of California at Berkeley that day. I spoke with about 15 students about my background and how I worked my way up as a volunteer reporter and producer at KLCC in Eugene, through an internship at KQED, and into a growing role at KALW where I’m now News Director. I continued my ongoing conversation with others about using an authentic voice for telling stories and shared examples from former Audio Academy members Liza Veale (’15) and David Boyer (’14) with the class — Liza’s story about development in downtown Oakland, and David’s story about a homeless woman in San Francisco’s Tenderloin. It was great to have the opportunity to highlight the stellar work done by our trainees!