New Year, New Location – KALW Strives to Expand Community Training Initiatives
By Guest Blogger Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW
KALW is in a new location, just down the hill from our old one, in portable offices and studios, while our others are renovated. Funny thing is I think a lot of us like these digs better – they’ve been customized for our needs, and once we got the wiring right, we can do all of our production and training work in a cozier, cleaner and more collaborative space.
With the transition to 2016, the first few weeks of the year have been used by the Audio Academy to get their first features in order. They’ve brought together the skills they learned over the first few months – recording, writing, sound editing, voicing – and they’ll have their voices on our air very soon! Most are working on multiple projects simultaneously, now, just like the rest of us; their latest endeavor is a group project about what public safety means to different populations in the Bay Area.
Meanwhile, our news department has moved forward with two more training initiatives that we started last year.
We’ve been developing a relationship with the community journalists in a program called Oakland Voices, which was co-created by former Oakland Tribune editor-in-chief Martin Reynolds and people interested in telling stories about their neighborhoods. Now in its 6th year, Oakland Voices partnered with KALW as part of our Sights & Sounds of the Bay Area project. The idea is to work with them to help them make radio stories about their community, East Oakland, themed around the arts of the area.
Last year, my colleague Ninna Gaensler-Debs and I had a couple of meetings in Oakland to get to know the participants and outline the project. We solicited pitches and selected six to work on. Then on Monday, January 11th, we had a remarkable visit to the Oakland Tribune offices to push the project forward. KALW managing editor Jen Chien, editor Casey Miner, reporter Leila Day, Holly J. McDede, Audio Academy graduates Chris Hambrick and Jeremy Dalmas, Ninna and I sat down with the cohort and their editor, longtime Tribune reporter Brenda Payton, to talk about their stories. We had a great time, and while plenty of learning took place, there was plenty of laughter as well.
It felt very KALW!
We’ll be working with them on their stories through the end of February. In March we’ll produce the pieces and host a listening party at the 81st Avenue library in East Oakland. And in April, we’re throwing a free show all about the arts of East Oakland, including dance, song, and some of the stories from this project. It’s a lot to look forward to, and we’ll keep you posted!
Sunset Youth Services
In addition to the other projects we’ve got going on in our newsroom, I’ve been working for several months with teenagers at Sunset Youth Services on the west side of San Francisco, scheduling time every two or three weeks to work with them to develop their audio engineering skills. It’s been a pleasure for me, and really instructive for the kids, as they see how they can use their ProTools skills to shape stories and maybe build toward careers in the field. This year, I decided to take this initiative further.
Since January 6th, I’ve been dropping by SYS every Wednesday, working individually and in groups with about half-a-dozen students there. We just started working on Storycorps pieces, and it’s opening up new worlds for the students.
Last Wednesday, I sat with 15-year-old Dre Emerson and 16-year-old Sierra Hutchinson as they listened through and started editing an extraordinary conversation with 86-year-old Bill Jones – the first single, gay man to adopt a child in the United States. It was an extremely emotional story, and a really engaging one at that, and Dre and Sierra talked a lot about what parts they wanted to keep to represent the essence of the interview. I’m looking forward to hearing the final product, and I’ll be sure to share it with you as soon as it’s ready!
It’s such a privilege to be able to work with people across so many communities in the Bay Area. We grow each time we connect with somebody new, and each time we’re a little better at helping people learn. It’s extraordinarily fulfilling to share and convey the joy that we feel in using the sonic medium to tell important and meaningful stories. It’s happening more and more.