This summer I have been working as a news reporter Wednesday through Friday for the Pacifica Evening News. On Monday and Tuesday I work as a researcher and producer for UpFront, the morning show on KPFA Radio. Both the evening news and Upfront have a large audience, so it has been incredible to work at the station on high-profile stories, and develop my skills as a radio news reporter and radio producer.
Here’s a little overview of how my day as a news reporter usually goes:
Each day, I wake up to an email from my news director outlining what my story for the day is. Included with it is usually a press release, and often a link to a few news article relating to the event. She will often tell me what angle the station wants to use, and I then go over the materials. On the train / bus to the event (they are often in Oakland or San Francisco) I read more about the story, and write up a few questions to ask whomever I am interviewing that day.
Once arriving at the event, it is my job to understand what is going on, and find the right people to talk to. I usually record about an hour worth of audio, and it ends up getting cut down to a 3-6 minute news segment for broadcast. This means I have to really narrow down the story into its simplest terms and choose questions which are precise.
After conducting my interviews and when the event is over, I head back to the studio where I type out the story, choose and edit the sound bites and conduct any follow-up phone interviews or research. At this point in the process, one of the anchors reads-over and edits my story, often times cutting out any tedious language or drawn-out sound bites. Finally, I head into one of the recording studios, record my narration, and then piece it into my story! Within minutes, my story would be cued up to be aired on the six-o’clock Pacifica Evening News. Often, turn in my story just minutes before the deadline, and the pressure and intensity in the newsroom builds up and gets stronger as it nears six-o’clock.
On Monday and Tuesdays I work as a producer for Upfront, a morning show that “delivers a mix of local, state, and international coverage through challenging interviews, civil debates, breaking updates, and in-depth discussions with authors’. On these days, I do not usually go out in the field, but rather work at a desk doing research, booking authors, making memos and conducting phone interviews. This part of my job is wonderful in that I am able to delve deeper into topics, instead of having to cut them down to such short news stories. One topic I looked into this week, was the large number of vacant and run-down buildings in the Bay Area. There are many huge apartment complexes that do not have anybody living in them, and that have been vacant for as many as 30 years. These buildings, are not well-kept, and end up being places of criminal activity. I looked into why these buildings are not on the market (especially since the Bay Area is in a huge housing crisis) and found out that it is due to the owners inheriting these buildings, and not wanting to keep them up. Often times, the taxes are so low that it is more affordable to let them be blighted, than to fix them up and put them on the market. Some elected officials, are trying to implement incentives to encourage these owners to rent these empty buildings. This comes as a response to the thousands of people without homes living on the street.
I mentioned the above story (which is not the most glamorous) because what I have found as a news reporter and researcher is that often times the smallest and seemingly unimportant stories end up being important in that they point to an idea which has not been discussed before.
The money from the Skidmore Summer Experience has been essential in my ability to afford living in the Bay Area, and travelling to and from work. I am grateful to Skidmore and the Career Development Center for the opportunity to learn by doing. I have covered everything from the tragic stabbing of Nia Wilson in Oakland to a protest against the Ellis Act, a legislation that allows the eviction of long-time San Francisco residents and contributes to the gentrification of the city. I have researched issues of homelessness in Oakland, spoke to I am developing my interviewing skills, writing news copy, working on hard deadlines, promoting my stories on social media and emailing well-respected elected officials on their legislation. One of my highlights this summer was finding a typo in Councilmember Kate Harrison of Berkeley’s proposed legislation!
The money provided has been essential to the practical logistics of my summer. It has paid for my lunches, public transportation to and from work (and to and from events that I attend as a reporter), as well as allowed me to live in the very expensive Bay Area. I have been receiving incredible guidance from the very professional and experienced News Directors and Producers here at KPFA, and am feeling beyond grateful for the opportunity to work here on such interesting stories, and get paid to do so.
Here are links to some of my stories from this summer: