Critical Thinking and Reporting With Your Heart Are Part of Journalism Education
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
First off, I want to acknowledge the sea-change this country is about to take. Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States revealed the deep frustration of many people in this country — something very important to recognize. But his campaign, the revelations that came during it, and his statements about what may come have also made enormous swaths of this nation’s population anxious and even fearful. Our work as journalists, teachers and in providing a critically thinking space in our community will be even more vital in the months and years to come, and we are strongly committed to fulfilling our role.
We devoted extraordinary resources to local and state election coverage, as I’ve detailed in previous blog posts. On election night, I hosted a live, two-hour conversation featuring guests from the San Francisco Public Press and the East Bay Express along with calls from our audience and live field reports and updates on returns. While the conversation largely revolved around what was happening across the country, we were able to inform our audience about how the dozens and dozens of ballot measures that will change life in the Bay Area.
We had a big team of contributors from our news department with many current and past members of the Audio Academy, including Angela Johnston (’14), Jeremy Jue (’17), Greer McVay (’17), Colin Peden (’15), Cari Spivack (’17), Liza Veale (’15), and Eli Wirtschafter (’16). It was a real-time experience of working hard under pressure during an emotional time. The team did a fantastic job, and they helped produce an excellent program with plenty of follow up reporting the next day.
Here’s some praise that we drew in the last week from Mwende Hahesy, production coordinator at the nationally syndicated investigative reporting program Reveal:
“I’ve very much appreciated the hyperlocal reporting y’all have been doing throughout the complete take over of election coverage. The piece on Measure Q (reported by Liza Veale, ’15) and the interview with the leader of La Misa Negra (as part of our Sights & Sounds project) helped ground me in my community. Keep up the great work!”
Thoughts from Academy fellow Cari Spivack
On the first day of Audio Academy, Ben Trefny told us about the KALW’s mission statement: to create joyful, informative media that engages people across the divides in our community — economic, social, and cultural. He said that at Crosscurrents, we tell the stories of the underserved, the people who don’t get a chance to tell their story. Overnight, this mission has become more urgent than it was 24 hours ago.
It is November 9, 2016, the morning after the election. I am in the KALW newsroom after spending last evening here, helping the newsroom provide live coverage of the election results. The mood here has filled with emotion and conviction. There is a resolve to reach our listeners and tell them we will continue, now, more than ever, to tell their stories. We are having honest discussions about the stories we missed telling and the stories that are still out there needing to be told.
When I started Audio Academy 10 weeks ago, it was with a light heart. I was intellectually challenged by the idea of telling stories on the radio: learning the craft of storytelling, the mechanics of sound editing, journalistic ethics, writing for radio… Being here last night and today, surrounded by a news crew who cares passionately about this work, I have been moved by the dialog here, a dialog likely occurring in newsrooms across the country: how much should your heart be part of your reporting? Is there now a new line?
This is another important moment for journalism. I am grateful to be part of this discussion and to navigate these complicated questions, not just for myself, but for the all the people whose stories I have yet to tell.