KALW Audio Academy Student Appreciates Honing Skills and the Ground Floor
By Guest Bloggers Ben Trefny and Raja Shah
Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW
This week, the 10 members of the Audio Academy started getting busy with assignments. Aside from fact-checking shows, writing copy for our website, and interview potential guests for Crosscurrents, each was tasked with heading out to the field to record strangers saying what part of the Bay Area they live in – the audio will be used at the start of our nightly show. It’s a great first assignment, because it requires proper microphone technique, it helps them break through the awkwardness of approaching strangers, and when they bring their sound back, they have their first mixing assignment to bring the recorded voices together and make them sound cohesive.
I talked with each Academy member about their experience this week, and they were all busy and excited. Some have already taken on reporting assignments, too, which they’ll produce with our guidance. Olivia Cueva will be reporting a “day-in-the-life” story about a center for homeless youth on the Peninsula that lost its funding and ability to serve its clientele overnight. Alexis Luna-Torres will accompany Audio Academy Fellow Todd Whitney on a recording of a mayoral debate in the city of Richmond that will air next month.
And this week, we’re showcasing Raja Shah, who has become a regular fixture in our morning conference calls where we determine a fair bit of our news coverage. Yesterday, in fact, he called attention to an impending vote by ferry operators to strike, and after following up on the story, he helped write a piece that led our regional news coverage for the day.
Here are Raja’s thoughts on being part of KALW’s Audio Academy:
Raja Shah, KALW Audio Academy Student
My name is Raja Shah, and I’m a member of the 2014-15 KALW Audio Academy. I found out about the Audio Academy last year while perusing the KALW website and looking for, well, something exactly like this program. Though I’ve always been a public radio listener, my interest in radio journalism has intensified over the last few years, and I was delighted to discover that my own local public radio station offers a unique and comprehensive training program in the field.
Now that the Audio Academy is just getting under way, I’m happy to report that my initial enthusiasm was well-placed. I’m writing this at the end of my third full day at the station and it was indeed a full day. Whether I was getting feedback on story ideas from the managing editor, sitting in on a mixing session with the audio engineer, learning speech tips from Crosscurrents host Hana Baba, answering phones for the fall membership campaign, or just bouncing questions off the newsroom staff, everyone I met was so incredibly welcoming and eager to share their experience with me, the new guy, despite the fact that they have deadlines to meet and stories to produce.
Over the course of the next year, I’m looking forward to developing the skills to report and produce my own stories. Though I’ve lived in the Bay Area for almost 16 years, I know that I, like everyone else, have my own blinders borne out of my own routines. Part of what makes KALW in general, and Crosscurrents specifically, so special is that it brings us into contact with people and stories that we might not meet in the course of our daily patterns. I plan to use this opportunity to expand my own notion of what it means to live in the Bay Area, and to bring listeners along for that ride.
While I was excited to find out about the existence of the Audio Academy last year, the truth is that I was not expecting to discover such a program. That’s because in most cities, and at most public radio stations, programs like this simply don’t exist. KALW is the rare exception. For that, I’m grateful to all of the station’s supporters who make the Audio Academy possible.
I’m also glad that I applied when I did. Yes, competition to get into this year’s Audio Academy was tough – over 50 people applied for just 10 spots. But when more people find out that a community-minded public radio station with eclectic programming and a tight-knit staff is offering free, high quality, and personalized training in radio journalism, I suspect that the applications will jump into the hundreds, and then the thousands. Here’s to getting in on the ground floor!
Who’s Raja Shah?
Raja Shah is a longtime Bay Area resident who has incorporated his love of a good story into work ranging from technology to education. At Google, he studied ways to better understand the world through data and co-led the effort to launch Google Trends. In Jerusalem, he taught Palestinian and Israeli high schoolers as part of the MEET (Middle East Education through Technology) program. He’s looking forward to developing his reporting and production skills at the Audio Academy this fall.