KALW Audio Academy Grads Rack Up Success in Jobs and Story Telling
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio
We were extremely happy this week, in the KALW newsroom, to read a national article about our community engagement project Hey Area. It was in the Columbia Journalism Review, highlighting the way members of our audience request stories they want us to report, then take part in the reporting itself alongside our journalists. It’s a great project, and the CJR story, focusing on the work done by Audio Academy graduate Liza Veale (’15) is a nice representation. Check it out right here!
On Thursday, I took a rare trip away from the station to meet with some of our media and community partners in Oakland. I thought I’d share some of what I experienced in a place that’s increasingly becoming a national destination for creative media.
First, I went to Youth Radio, with whom we recently collaborated on the national political conventions. Those weeks, I spoke with Soraya Shockley, for Crosscurrents, about her experiences on the convention floor in Cleveland, along with a dynamic interview about race and the GOP with former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. I also talked with Miles Bess about his first experience covering the Democratic National Convention and how network broadcasts weren’t really telling the story he was seeing. For Youth Radio, getting their young reporters before KALW’s audience is a valuable experience, and to hear fresh perspectives that you really don’t hear elsewhere is great for our mission in making truly public media. You can expect to hear more such collaborations in the future.
Second, I headed over to the nationally syndicated show Snap Judgement, where Glynn Washington and his team are redefining the sound of public radio with their beat-driven storytelling. They just hired a terrific new producer there: Liz Mak, who graduated from our Audio Academy in 2014 and recently made her first Snap story about a man discussing his past lives. Snap’s cofounder, Mark Ristich, was noting how extraordinarily good KALW is at training radio professionals and developing talent. In fact, three members of Snap’s current team – Anna Sussman, Nancy Lopez, and Liz Mak – have spent significant time working at KALW’s studios, on Your Call, Radio Ambulante, and Crosscurrents. Who’s next?!
Third, I met up with Martin Reynolds to talk about our partnership with the community journalist training program Oakland Voices. Last year, we initiated work with them and trained half-a-dozen members on how to make radio stories about the arts in their neighborhoods, partnering them up with producers including Chris Hambrick (’15) and Jeremy Dalmas (’14). Four of the resulting pieces aired on Crosscurrents – you can hear them here – and two were part of our live Sights & Sounds of East Oakland show. We’ll be repeating that work with Oakland Voices this year. But Martin and I also discussed the possibility of expanding our community training by conducting a Hey Area project in East Oakland with members of the Oakland Voices cohort. That was an exciting idea, bringing two of our exciting programs together, and we’ll try to see that through.
The final thing I wanted to share is something that is going to directly improve the experience of our next Audio Academy. While we’ve continually refined our program, improving our lesson plans and tuning our curriculum, our students have sometimes felt limited with their access to tools of the trade. We have audio editing software at KALW, but unless our students make an expensive investment and purchase ProTools for themselves, they have to come back to the studios to practice the sound mixing craft. So a couple weeks ago, I called up one of the ProTools founders, Mark Jeffery. He actually was instrumental in arranging the equipment donation that hooked up San Quentin inmates so they could produce the San Quentin Prison Report. After hearing what the Audio Academy is all about, he decided to explore a possible donation. And this week, we received a package containing enough ProTools rigs for every member of the Audio Academy to have their own to use for the year!
That Audio Academy year starts the first full week of September. We can’t wait!