What Do Audio Storytelling and Chocolate O’Clock have In Common? KALW Audio Academy has the Answers
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio and Pria Mahadevan, Audio Academy Fellow ’19
It’s been a little while, and things have been busy. It’s the journalism business, after all! But as we approach the extraordinary news cycle of the upcoming midterm elections, I wanted to share a nice personal perspective of a different kind of transformative experience.
Here are a few paragraphs from Pria Mahadevan, who started up in our Audio Academy training program about a month-and-a-half ago:
When Ben asked me to write about my past couple months in the Audio Academy, I couldn’t stop thinking about how a just few months ago, I was scrolling through this website reading posts by former KALW Audio Academy fellows. Specifically, I remember reading what Bo Walsh (‘18) wrote about
even after months into program, he still couldn’t believe how he got here. If I somehow get into this, that’s gonna be me, I thought.
Flash forward to today and yes, I’m definitely just as stunned as Bo that I get to grow, learn, and produce here at KALW. That, at least, I expected. What I didn’t expect was just how much KALW’s mission to provide “joyful, informative radio” to the Bay Area community permeates the atmosphere of the station. I’m not just talking about the impromptu dance parties, daily “chocolate o’clock,” or the fact that we have Slack channels dedicated to finding each other’s keys. It comes through in the way people treat each other. People at KALW enjoy and respect the work they do, and in turn they enjoy and respect each other. I love working here, and I cannot imagine a better place to start my journalism career.
Like the majority of our Audio Academy fellows this year, I’m an outsider to the world of radio journalism. Public radio – and journalism in general – can be a difficult field to break into without previous experience. But KALW is dedicated to training, mentoring, and supporting new voices in radio. Every Audio Academy fellow has a mentor for the year, and I lucked out with Marissa Ortega-Welch as mine. I came into the Audio Academy with more questions than I knew what to do with, and Marissa has been great about slowing me down and helping me understand that many of my questions will be answered with more experience. She has already helped me build confidence in my voice, and it’s great to float ideas to someone more experienced than me and know I’ll receive constructive feedback.
I’d also like to highlight the ways in which this cohort of fellows has enhanced my Audio Academy experience. Without something like KALW, there’s a good chance that none of us would have ever met. But every Wednesday evening, this group of scientists, actors, techies, nannies, established journalists, and one twenty-something nomad that still can’t believe she lucked her way into this get together to explore the very thing that united us in the first place: audio storytelling. I learn so much just by being around these people, and I can’t wait to hear the stories they’ll bring onto the airwaves.
Let me end with this: if there is another “me” out there currently combing through this blog, know that there is a place for you in the big wide radio world. I’m so grateful to KALW for seeing the potential in me that I was beginning to doubt I’d ever seen in myself. If you’re an early-career journalist or radio aficionado eager to explore a future in this dynamic (and fun!) field, this is definitely a place you can thrive.