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Posted by on May 2, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Audio Academy Continues to Tell Great Stories and Compete For Awards

By Ben Trefny, News Director, KALW Public Radio

Holly J. McDede, Cari Spivack (’17), Hannah Kingsley-Ma (’15), and Jeremy Jue (’17) meet over lunch outside KALW’s newsroom.

We’re getting close to determining the participants in the next Audio Academy class! First, though, there’s plenty going on with the current cohort, so let me update you on what’s been happening over the last few weeks!

Jeremy Jue reported an insightful and sound-rich story about a coffee shop in Berkeley that helps refugees by employing them. Very popular on our website!

Cari Spivack put together an extended feature exploring the rarely told stories of Italian-Americans incarcerated during World War II. More on that, below!

Jeremy Dalmas (’15) reported a story on request for NPR‘s All Things Considered. It’s about a new financial justice program that creates a more affordable sliding scale for paying fines in San Francisco.

Oakland Voices reporters Damu Dailey and Tony Daquipa worked with Audio Academy graduates Jeremy Dalmas (’15) and Chris Hambrick (’15) on stories they performed live at Sights & Sounds of East Oakland.

Jeremy also helped reporter Damu Dailey from our partners at Oakland Voices tell the story of his East Oakland community through the lives and deaths of people at Evergreen Cemetery. The story was part of our live storytelling and arts performance event Sights & Sounds of East Oakland at

Chris Hambrick (’15) helped Oakland Voices reporter Tony Daquipa tell the story of a hip hop artist who has changed his outlook since becoming a father but retains the soul of his roots. The piece was also performed live at Sights & Sounds of East Oakland  Sights & Sounds of East Oakland.

Hannah Kingsley-Ma (’15) worked with Kat Ferreira from Oakland Voices to tell the story of a new mural featuring doves representing victims of the Ghost Ship tragedy. It aired on KALW in advance of our live event, and the piece received a strong response, including this touching note from the mother of a woman who died in the fire:

Thank you for sharing this uplifting message of the good works some folks are trying to do as a result of the Ghost Ship Warehouse Fire. My daughter, Donna Kellogg, one of the 36, loved the creative works of others, and was equally inspiring with her own creative arts. I am grateful she is remembered, my beautiful little red-headed Dove, soaring to the heavens with her fellow artists…the angels pause to read their names for a final farewell.

We appreciate the chance we’ve had to work with storytellers from East Oakland to help them tell their authentic stories. They clearly can bring great and significant depth to journalism.

You may remember a documentary that Hannah made with Liza Veale (’15) about undocumented students at Castlemont High (where we held our recent live Sights & Sounds event). That story, which already won a regional award from the Society of Professional Journalists, is a finalist for a national award from the Education Writers Association. Reading some of the judges’ comments was extraordinarily gratifying for me, because they reflect the craft values we instill in the journalists we teach through our Audio Academy training program:

This is a really compelling story that took some time to tell. There were several wonderful scenes here and the reporters did a great job telling the stories of school initiatives, student-led solutions to bullying and complicated race relations.


I loved this angle on newcomer kids – it’s amazing this perspective isn’t more well covered. And this is a really good exploration of their experience … especially in the discussion of funding, race and competition over limited resources. I felt like I was hearing something that I rarely hear discussed honestly on the radio (or in any media). I thought this story was fascinating.

Our Audio Academy alums are up for the award against a team comprised of reporters at St. Louis Public Radio and WBUR in Boston – very heady competition, and a real tribute to the quality of the work our reporters are producing.

I’ll conclude this post with some of Cari Spivack’s thoughts about her time spent on the story about wartime treatment of Italian immigrants:

I decided to do a story about the wartime treatment of Italian Immigrants during WWII because I did not know this had happened. I only knew about the incarceration of Japanese and Japanese Americans. I felt as though by not knowing about this history, there was a continued injustice.

Three months later, when I finished making this story, I had become so overly familiar with it that I had lost the initial sense of importance which inspired me to make the story in the first place. As my editor, sound engineer and I finalized the story, I felt insecure and wondered if it would be interesting to listeners.

As soon as the story finished airing on Crosscurrents, I received an unexpected email from an acquaintance. “Just heard your amazing long form piece on KALW,” read the subject line. The email was brief, but to the point: “What a triumph! So fascinating! So happy to hear you’re up to something super interesting!”

Emails from two of the story’s subjects followed, both praising the story. I breathed a great sigh of relief.

Then a message from an Italian-American friend from the East Coast currently living in Europe, “I shared your story on Facebook and Twitter. An Italian-American Congressman retweeted it!”

It is already a heady feeling to make a radio story. Once that story goes out into the world, you hope that people listen to it. And beyond hope is the tiny, almost impossible expectation that people will relate to the story. So when they do, it is indescribable.

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