Audio Academy Fellow Shares “Instants of Success” and Learns Election News Reporting
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Listener Supported Public Radio
On Wednesday night, I had the absolute pleasure of leading a seminar for the Audio Academy class of 2020. The subject: timely news reporting.
We went over the upcoming election in San Francisco. Yes, there’s plenty to vote on in November 2019: a mayor’s race; an open seat for district attorney; and six ballot measures, among other things. We went over how to prepare hosts for interviews, made booking assignments including all the candidates running for the aforementioned offices, and reviewed stories KALW has made about past propositions. By next week, our Audio Academy fellows will put together all the information Crosscurrents host Hana Baba, KALW justice reporter Holly J. McDede, KALW election coordinator Angela Johnston, and I need to know about the races, and the students will have first drafts completed on two-minute election briefs helping voters in our audience get the info they need to make educated choices. Stay tuned!
Also, if you’ve been listening to KALW, you know that we produce newscasts, now, at 8:04am and 4:04pm. The afternoon version includes input from our trainees, who typically take print stories from the Associated Press (with whom we partner), research additional content when necessary, rewrite the articles, and then prepare them for broadcast with an editor. We’ve been doing some preliminary work on these the first few weeks during the regular working day, but on Wednesday we had the chance to collectively work on the practice. It was great! The eight fellows set their heads down for about 40 minutes, turning a relatively dry story about the House passage of a bill that would allow the cannabis industry to use banks into a dynamic, engaging radio story. It was awesome to hear what they came up with, each person showed strengths, and we’ve definitely got some great storytellers!
One of them is Julia Llinas Goodman. I asked them to share some thoughts about the start of the Audio Academy training program. Here’s what they had to say:
Before starting the KALW Audio Academy, there was a lot I was unsure of in my journalism career. For example: not knowing if it would be perceived as biased for me to be open about coming from a family of immigrants, especially if I wanted to write about immigration policy. For example: not being sure if I could be openly bisexual and nonbinary at work, because I had only ever had one openly gay coworker in a newsroom, and no openly trans or nonbinary coworkers. For example: feeling the pressure of competition for the best story, without the reward of true collaboration with the amazing people I was working with. I wanted to pursue this passion I’d always had for storytelling, but I also felt the need to do so in an environment that would let me be honest about where I was coming from, what my life experiences had been, and who I wanted to work with in order to bring these stories to life.
Enter the Audio Academy. A program I heard about from an impersonal online forum, while living all the way across the country. A program that turned into an opportunity I could actually see myself pursuing—in fact, one that I felt I needed to pursue. From the moment I stepped into the newsroom, it was clear that there was going to be a lot to learn. If you think the word “tracking” has to do with following someone and “automation” is just a concept relevant to robotics, then you have some idea of what I’m talking about. The truth is, there’s so much about audio journalism that I couldn’t have anticipated, and a lot of it has a steep learning curve.
Yet, at the same time, there’s so much that I couldn’t have imagined being the amazing experience it is. First and foremost, the news crew. It’s rare to feel truly welcomed in a space right when you enter it, but that’s what I experienced when arriving at KALW. From the first moment meeting all of my fellow Audio Academy classmates and comparing the varied life stories that led us to this moment, to the unimpressed tabby cat who demanded pats as I walked up to the station, to having everyone at KALW welcome us with open arms, set us up for success, and then be there to catch us when we fall. (And fall, and fall again, and…I mentioned there was a learning curve, right?)
And then there are those instants of success, the rush that’s so unique to audio storytelling. When you line up an edit perfectly, so your background music and the person speaking over it match up, it’s something like magic. When you hear the first words you wrote or the first sound you recorded air on the radio, it feels like a small piece of yourself has reached an unknown, unimaginable audience. They may never know exactly who you are, but the words and sounds that mean something to you are now reaching them, hopefully catching their attention, holding them for just a little bit.