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Arts & Culture

Radio Is The Democratic Way To Reach People 'Cause The FM Dial Is Available To All

Ben Trefny
Academy fellow Sarah Lai Stirland and Sona Avakian share an award at the station (prior to our team working remotely)

My last day in the station was March 9th. People were talking about how easy their commutes were. I don’t think the students were in school at Burton High where KALW is located, but honestly, I don’t remember. At one point the fire alarm went off; we all grabbed our computers and ran outside to continue working at the picnic table. Later that afternoon I opened the door to the school hallway and the smell of ammonia was heavy in the air.

The first few days of shelter-in-place are a blur. So many phone calls and Zoom meetings trying to figure out how we were going to report on this. In some ways it was exhilarating. Then I crashed. Trying to make radio alone isn’t easy if you’re a novice. Working from home can be isolating; but it’s also a privilege. Just being able to stay home is a privilege. Some days I don’t recognize my own life anymore. Other times in the middle of my confusion I feel extreme euphoria at just being able to wash my hands as often as I want.

I was slow to take this seriously. But two people I know have died and my great aunt, who is in assisted living has tested positive. So far, luckily, she has no symptoms. I can’t believe how naive I was.

I don’t know what I’m going to do after Audio Academy. A few of the stories I was working on are on hold because I need more tape. This is disappointing because I thought I would have more finished features under my belt by this time. What I do know is with much of the online news behind paywalls, radio is the most democratic way to reach people. It will always be the medium to deliver thoughtful and truthful information which can be accessed through your phone, computer or a good old-fashioned terrestrial FM dial.

Check out Sona's story for a series called “The Essentials” featuring Claude the albino alligator here.