Collaboration Builds Community in the KALW Newsroom and Beyond
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Audience Supported Public Media and Annelise Finney, Audio Academy ‘21
I think a lot of us were hoping that 2021 would start fresh and promising. But so far, it feels a lot like 2020 to me.
That said, in the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the economic instability of stop-and-go shutdowns, the overdue racial reckoning, and the toxic politics we’ve been experiencing, I feel we’re all learning countless lessons: about growing; priorities; community; and building a better world.
As part of that, I’m very grateful for support from the Association for Continuing Education, which has always prioritized those values.
I’d like to highlight a story that our training coordinator, Marissa Ortega-Welch, and I produced the day after the attack on the U.S. Capitol. It’s a firsthand account of the day’s events from the perspective of four elected officials from California.
While our team turned this story around quickly, within 24 hours of the insurrection, it was the result of a journalism partnership. We received the interviews from two public radio stations that partner with us in NPR‘s California Hub — KPCC in Pasadena and KAZU in Monterey. This kind of collaboration, done in the public interest, is exactly the kind of effort that I’ve hoped for years to achieve. Working together toward a common goal makes our work better. It makes us all better. Here’s to more of that in this challenging year to come.
Here are some thoughts from Annelise Finney, one of the outstanding fellows in KALW’s Audio Academy class of 2021:
I’m wrapping up work on my first feature length audio piece, a profile of a librarian who became a contact tracer during the pandemic. I made a few audio pieces on my own before joining the Audio Academy, but I’ve never worked on them with another person, much less an editor. For this project I was fortunate to be edited by Lisa Morehouse.
I’ve enjoyed working with Lisa and learning about the reporter/editor relationship. So much of my pandemic pursuits have been intensely and necessarily solitary. I’m usually a very social person but to cope with the isolation of this time, I’ve gotten pretty good at burrowing deep into projects on my own. Each one becomes its own world complete with unique logic, routines, and dramas. Starting work on this project felt the same, but then at my first edit, Lisa dropped into the world beside me.
When someone drops into a world you’ve created, you quickly learn the distance between what you find interesting and what has more general appeal. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget this distance exists when working for a long time on your own. At first I felt a bit shy and it felt strange to have someone look so directly and critically at my work — kind of like having a stranger stare so deeply into your eyes that you can’t help but blush and look away. I was at first, resistant to incorporating another person’s ideas into my work. But I began to learn how to feel out where to acquiesce to the informed opinion of the expert, and where to push back and defend my own ideas. Lisa delivers edits efficiently, with, what was for me, the perfect amount of caring and unsparing honestly. She is the definition of tough love. Lisa’s attention forced me to evaluate my own work with a more critical eye and ultimately pushed me forward on the road to becoming a better journalist. I’m looking forward to working with an editor again, learning about different editing styles and continuing to grow as a journalist through close collaboration with my editors.