Working Remotely, the KALW Team Has Stepped Up to Provide Important News in Critical Times
By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Supported Radio and Babette Thomas, Newsroom Summer Trainee
We’ve entered September, and now we’re just two months away from Election Day. It’s extraordinary that, as we move into this critical time, we’re facing so many crises as a society right now:
– the novel coronavirus pandemic
– a long overdue reckoning with entrenched, systemic racism
– two of the three largest wildfires in California history happening simultaneously, and with another, forcing evacuations and filling the Bay Area with smoke
– a seemingly irreconcilable political divide in our country
It’s overwhelming. Exhausting. It’s also enlightening. And it can be empowering. For certain, it provides endless material for, and validation of, good journalism. Our team at KALW has stepped up for many months, now, working remotely, and diligently, to provide news and information for the Bay Area. And in the process, we’ve been training 18 people, remotely, who are learning in the most extreme and important conditions.
For one thing, they’ve made Election Briefs about all 12 state propositions, and we’re nearing completion of all 13 San Francisco ballot measures. From there, we’ll move on to all the rest of the Bay Area counties and all their ballot measures as well. Here are a few examples:
San Francisco Measure F: Overhauling Business Taxes — Sarah Lai Stirland
San Francisco Measure E: Police Department Staffing Levels — Noor Bouzidi
California Proposition 21: Rent Control — Vivian Bossieux-Skinner
And we’ve been knocking out several stories a day about the topics that our listeners need to know about right now. Such as:
Bullet Tracing Bill Reaches Governor’s Desk — Bee Soll
San Francisco Set To Cut Some Money From The Police Department — Precious Green
California’s Struggle To Fight Fires On Multiple Fronts — Imran Ali Malik
Imran has now started classes at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. And his Audio Academy classmate Julia Llinas Goodman is joining the podcast Flash Forward as an associate producer. Meanwhile, Julia’s been building their engineering skills along with Chris Egusa, and they may both have a hand in the next season of tbh, our podcast by, about, and for teenagers, which is wrapping production right now.
As the host of tbh season, Samuel Getaches, once said, “There’s a lot to talk about!”
But enough from me. I’m going to make way for Babette Thomas, one of our summer trainees, who will be wrapping up her regular newsroom duties in the next couple of weeks:
I came in as a news intern at KALW at two very transitional moments in my life — only days after graduating from college and during the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic. At the intersection of these two life upending moments, I felt uncertain with just about everything. I was moving back home to Oakland after four years of school. And I was nervous for what it might be like to work at a radio station remotely! But, in these moments of turbulence, KALW provided me with structure, guidance, encouragement and the opportunity to really grow as a producer.
I came to KALW having previously worked as a radio producer in college, in a combination of more experimental and conventional podcasting settings. I knew, and still know, that I want to pursue a career in radio. But I had heard so many horror stories from friends, that your first few opportunities in radio can really hamper your voice, as you attempt to conform to the voice of the show or program. This has pretty much been the opposite of my experience at Crosscurrents. If anything, I have been able to hone in on my voice as a producer, in ways that far exceeded my expectations. Through the guidance of the lovely editors and other members of staff, I have learned how to convey my ideas more concisely and directly. And I believe my writing has really improved.
At KALW, I have had a great sense of autonomy in all phases of production, from coming up with story ideas to sound engineering. I’ve even been able to add my own personality into the minute-long news spots. And I have learned so much about what structurally goes into producing a news program, through hands on learning–even in a remote setting! In the past couple months, I’ve been in the driver seat of my own learning experience; I’ve been able to report on stories that interest me, and tell these stories in ways that feel true to who I am as a producer. KALW has gifted me with the knowledge and tools that I believe will greatly assist me on my journey as a radio producer! And I am incredibly grateful!