Happiness, Ethics, Tech and Sam Andrew – Oh, the Range of Brave Stories From KALW’s Audio Academy
By Guest Blogger Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW
This week, the Audio Academy really filled up our broadcast schedule.
For the last several weeks, the members have been providing our audience with a version of our internal digest of the day’s news. Here’s an example of Marcy Fraser‘s version from Tuesday. One of the stories in there was about the passing of Big Brother and the Holding Company cofounder and guitarist Sam Andrew. She had the idea to make an audio obituary, and on her day in the newsroom, she wrote one up and voiced it. The piece, which you can hear right here, eventually became one of the top five most popular pieces on KALW that day!
Reporting fellow Liz Mak, from whom we’ll hear a little later in this post, made a terrific story that aired Tuesday, as well, about an online class about the science of happiness that has an enrollment of 150,000 people. As she’ll tell you, this story was more complex and personal than any she’s taken on, yet, and the result, which you can check out here, is something special.
Throughout the week, the students took a class on ethics, put together by Raja Shah‘s mentor, Sandhya Dirks. It’s particularly timely, with the suspension of NBC’s Brian Williams, and an example of the kind of topical classroom subject matter the Academy receives on a regular basis.
On Thursday, Liza Veale took over the front end of the show, reporting a story about the pros and cons of the online hiring service “TaskRabbit“, which is linked right here.We asked her to find a complementary interview, and she found a great subject in the workers’ rights lawsuit by many drivers against their employers, Uber and Lyft. Check out that interview, which she produced, here.
The show on technology concluded with reporting fellow Kristina Loring‘s quick turnaround story about the “tech timeout challenge“, in which teenagers tried to do without their digital devices for 72 hours. Very timely reporting, and I think she did a great job bringing her distinctive personal style to the storytelling, as you’ll hear in the piece.
Here are some thoughts from Liz about her time working with us as a paid reporting fellow:
By Guest Blogger Liz Mak, Audio Academy Fellow
This year, I’ve been actively venturing into unfamiliar territory with my radio pieces – a scary thing, alleviated by the fact that there’s a whole entourage of KALW colleagues there to support me. Every story I’ve worked on since my fellowship began has pushed me to make a piece different from the last: I’ve produced my first interview for another reporter; learned how to navigate large institutions while reporting on sexual assault response efforts at UC Berkeley; and for my piece on an immersive theatre group, I tried my hand at sound design and reenactment.
My latest piece on UC Berkeley’s Science of Happiness course was a departure of another kind: It was about an online course, where each week focused on a different component of happiness – gratitude, forgiveness, cooperation, etc — each with a corresponding homework assignment. In looking for a scene to help illustrate how the class works, my editor and I decided to make me a character – to have me complete an exercise about forgiveness: So I called an ex-boyfriend, and recorded a conversation geared towards learning how to forgive him, for, I suppose, being a bad boyfriend. It was a foray into gonzo journalism, and revealing my own vulnerabilities on air.
And this opportunity — one of the many I’ve been handed at KALW — allowed me to tap into a different kind of radio, a kind that’s more experimental. I’ve enjoyed pushing boundaries of what I can explore within my pieces, and also the exercise of putting my own ego on the line in order to further a piece of work. That’s part of why I got into radio in the first place, and why I love working at a creative news outlet like KALW — because I feel that it encourages me to be a braver person, and gives me permission to pursue my curiosity and creativity.