News About the San Quentin COVID-19 Status from “Uncuffed” Podcast and a Report from a Rising Radio Journalist
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW and Bee Soll, KALW Summer Trainee
I wanted to give an update on one aspect of the extensive journalism training we do through KALW, made possible in part with the help of ACE. As I’ve discussed, before, we’ve been working with incarcerated people at San Quentin State Prison for about eight years, now, and recently expanded to work with men at California State Prison, Solano. The stories they produce can be heard regularly on KALW’s Crosscurrents as well as the podcast Uncuffed. There’s been a lot of news in state prisons during the pandemic, and I wanted to share with you an excerpt from the Uncuffed newsletter, to loop you in on what’s been happening:
Almost two-thirds of the population of San Quentin has tested positive for COVID-19. Thankfully, almost 1,600 have recovered, according to CDCR. But 19 have died, and about 500 are still sick and in custody. Over 1,000 more are sick in other state prisons. Our hearts go out to people in prisons, the communities that love them, and to staff…
In this time of increased danger in prisons, more listeners than ever are finding Uncuffed. This past week, we were fortunate to be featured in two of our favorite podcasts: Ear Hustle, and Snap Judgment.
If you’ve heard of Uncuffed, you’ve probably heard of Ear Hustle. Founders Earlonne Woods, Antwan Williams, and Nigel Poor all got their radio start in KALW’s program in San Quentin, and they work right next door to us in the San Quentin media center.
Ear Hustle put out a special summer listening episode, featuring Uncuffed and other podcasts giving voice to people in prison and post-incarceration. We definitely recommend checking out that episode and subscribing to all those shows! There’s a movement now of podcasts made by people in prisons, and we’re very proud to be a part of it.
Separately, the podcast Snap Judgment, based out of Oakland, did a whole episode on the coronavirus outbreak at San Quentin. This is powerful, essential listening if you want to understand what the pandemic has been like inside San Quentin. The episode features the voices and words of three Uncuffed producers: Chanthon Bun, Greg Eskridge, and Thanh Tran. It also includes an excerpt of our most recent episode, Letters from the Outside, as COVID Rages Inside.
Big props to the producers on the inside and the outside of the prison walls. And thanks to everybody who supports these training programs and the critical journalism that comes out of them.
In our own newsroom at KALW (or, rather, the many home studios around the Bay Area where we’re now primarily producing our work), a team of people are helping teach other rising audio journalists. One of the talented folks in our summer training program is Bee Soll. I asked her to share thoughts about her experience in this most unusual season:
Through my internship with KALW, I’ve learned a ton of new skills, and also had the opportunity to teach myself. Though we are encountering unprecedented times, this internship has taught me the value of solving problems on my own and asking for help when I need it. The staff at KALW are nothing short of amazing — everyone is more than willing to jump on a Zoom call to walk me through something technical or help me with my voicing when I need to be more conversational. This is my second reporting internship, and one thing I find so unique about KALW is the attention given to training the next generation of reporters and producers. Having structure, tasks, and instructions is one of the most important things for me to have during COVID. Though I wish I could hang out with them in person, my coworkers and bosses at KALW are patient, kind, and really want me to learn and grow. I’m excited to meet new radio people as I grow in this industry. Being in this type of creative and social justice-oriented environment inspires me and my work. Overall, I’m so grateful to have joined this team and I look forward to where it takes me!