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2020: The Year Of Virtual Graduation Ceremonies

Victor Tence celebrating his birthday (back in January) in KALW's newsroom.

What a long strange trip it’s been.

If that sounds like a graduation speech cliche, it’s because it is. The 2020 Audio Academy is drawing to a close, and when I take stock around me the trip only seems to be growing longer and stranger.

Regardless, if I have learned anything from quality radio story structure, this final chapter is a time for reflection and emotional release. So, let me tell you about the moment I was able to experience both.

Not long after coronavirus put our city in lockdown, KALW’s editors conceptualized the Quarantine Diaries — a series that follows a wide spectrum of Bay Area residents that allows us, through their voices, to see how the impact of a global event can be both universal and unique to the individual.

I loved the concept, and as a journalist I knew I wanted to get involved. What I didn’t know, but seems obvious now, is that my life would be swept up with all the other changes happening around my community. This was the first time I was deeply and directly impacted by the story I was reporting on. And with some encouragement and support from the KALW family, I recorded my own entry and shared my own truth.

Being on the other side of the microphone was a big step for me, and in doing so I had an epiphany. If I wanted my entry to be meaningful, I had to give what I have asked of others for so many stories: an honest and naked answer.

I spoke about a loss in my life that at the time seemed unreal, one that was too big to wrap my head around. I spoke through tears and my cracking voice. And when I was done it felt right, like the closing of a chapter.

I hope it helped others, but I know it helped me.

So now, I understand better why we end our stories with reflection and emotional release. Because as journalists at KALW, we don’t just break headlines to let people know the facts of recent events. We also create space to reflect and space to connect. Work like this gives us a moment to take a collective breath, gather ourselves and face the future, however strange it may be.

Listen to the story Victor’s writing about here.

Victor Tence is a graduate of City College of San Francisco's journalism program and the 2020 Audio Academy class.