Changes and Good Stories at KALW, Plus The Summer Interns Walked In
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
We’ve been going through some significant transitions in the KALW news department, with some beloved people moving on to new and exciting opportunities and some terrific talent coming in to become key contributors to our operation.
We bid farewell in the late spring and early summer to Audio Academy mentors Julie Caine (now heading Al Jazeera Digital’s podcasting department) and Leila Day (in distribution negotiations on her podcast The Stoop with Hana Baba) as well as longtime sound engineer Chris Hoff (who recently toured the East Coast with live performances of his podcast The World According to Sound) and Audio Academy graduate Ted Muldoon (’15), who moved from mixing a variety of shows for KALW to developing podcasts for The Washington Post. We miss them all, and we wish them well!
At the same time, we offer a warm welcome to Marissa Ortega-Welch, our health beat reporter, who will take on more hours, coordinating our work with San Quentin Radio and helping to manage our now widespread training programs. She will also be a new Audio Academy mentor. Another new mentor is Raquel Maria Dillon, a longtime public radio, AP, and commercial television journalist who’s joining our team as a half-time editor.
We have three other hires who will be integral to our work in the coming year.
– Lee Romney had a 23-year experience as an LA Times reporter before recently turning her attention to radio, studying with the Transom Storytelling Program where she learned from Leila, and joining us as our part-time education reporter.
– Gabe Grabin is a sound engineer with over a decade of experience, most recently working on an award-winning weekly show about mental illness called Safe Space Radio out of Portland, Maine. He says, “KALW is one of the few stations in the US that is making the kind of radio that I’m really drawn to – curious, adventurous, and socially conscious – so I’m excited to take that leap.” Us, too!
– Jackie Sojico is a multitalented reporter/producer/engineer who went to the SALT Institute for Documentary Studies (like Liz Mak [’14]), worked as a Storycorps facilitator (like Chris Hambrick [’15]), was an AIR New Voices scholar (like Geraldine Ah-Sue [’16]), worked with Nebraska Public Radio, and produces a science podcast called New Heads For New People. She also, apparently, bakes pies (like many of us) and likes puns, so … a natural fit!
Despite our transitional staffing, we’ve been knocking out some really interesting and good-sounding shows the last couple of weeks. Here are some highlights:
– The extraordinary David Boyer (’14) produced an entire documentary: The real story behind the Summer of Love. Super listenable, sound rich, and interesting.
– The next day, we were able to rally and pull together a whole half-hour show surrounding San Francisco’s Navigation Centers on June 28th. It was made possible by the powerful Lauras of Mission Local – our own summer reporter Laura Wenus who made a feature, and Laura Waxmann, who came in for an interview. Also, thanks to Nicole Grigg (’17) for inspiring the show and bringing in a +A on the Dogpatch Nav Center.
– Corinne, another summer volunteer, made a really amusing and surprisingly touching Audiograph about the Drag Queen Story Hour as a pretty quick turnaround piece. It featured the voice of Audio Academy grad Beatrice Thomas (’17), aka Black Benatar, and the cameo at the end of the show was totally memorable. Heeeeeeeeeeeeeey!!
– We reworked and aired the first story in a series by Audio Academy alum Daphne Matziaraki (’14) about The Shipyard, a massive redevelopment project on the east side of San Francisco, right before the long-awaited opening of hundreds of housing units. We updated the story with shots from a professional photographer who offered his volunteer services, and the piece became the most popular on KALW’s website, topping a thousand clicks.
– We aired a Q&A from cost-of-living reporter, and Audio Academy alum, Jeremy Dalmas (’14) about a proposal to create a municipal bank in Oakland. Again, the timing for this story was excellent, with the city council considering the idea in its next session
– Also, we debuted Oakland Voices reporter Damu Dailey‘s epic story about East Oakland’s Evergreen Cemetery, produced with Jeremy’s help. This story was originally performed live at the Sights & Sounds of East Oakland, and it’s an extraordinary and worthwhile history lesson.
– We took on San Francisco’s building boom from a birds’ eye perspective, with a piece from Audio Academy graduate Claire Stremple (’17) about a tower crane operator. Gutsy reporting accomplished, appropriately, by a rock climber!
– That was followed by a quick turnaround, fun story from Audio Academy alum Chris Hambrick (’15) profiling San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival co-artistic director Carlos Carvajal.
– And we reaired a piece from another Audio Academy alum, Hannah Kingsley-Ma (’15), about the Flower Piano program at the San Francisco botanical gardens, which launched its third season that day.
Finally, I’d like to give a big shout out to the high school students working in our department as paid summer interns: Susanna Luo, Kasey Chen, Eloisa “Elly” Herbert, and Allison Ajpop-Perez. They’re getting great attention and care from Jeremy and his teaching partner, our justice reporter Holly J. McDede. It’s such a pleasure to be in the company of such confident, attentive, positive, and fun teenagers! We are really appreciative of them being part of our team this summer, and we’re looking forward to hearing their stories in just a couple of weeks! You can expect to hear from them directly in my next blog post!