Looking Back, Forging Ahead
we laughed, we cried, we gave away so many tote bags
ROCK PAPER RADIO is a dispatch for misfits & unlikely optimists by your favorite hapa haole, beet-pickling, public radio nerd. It’s a weekly email newsletter that shares three curiosities every Thursday - something to hold on to (that’s the ‘rock’), something to read (that’s the ‘paper‘), and something to listen to (you guessed it, that’s the ‘radio’). Themes include but are not limited to: rebel violinists, immortal jellyfish, revolution. Thanks for subscribing and spreading the word.
Hi, friends. Last week I shared that I joined The Great Public Radio Resignation and left my job with KUOW. Since my last day, I’ve been reflecting on the stories I’ve been swimming in for the last four years that have fueled my unlikely optimism and helped me figure out who I am as a misfit maker. Here’s to looking back in order to forge ahead.
SOME THINGS TO LISTEN TO
Let’s be real: having a job that comes with a microphone brings great responsibility, but also perks. Like having the opportunity to see (okay, hear) people closest to you in new ways.
In the early days of the pandemic, I was a wreck thinking about the risk my mother was facing as a full-time hospital nurse. I couldn’t convince her to retire immediately, so I interviewed her instead. As I edited, I was reminded that my mom is a whole professional person, fully separate from her role in our family; and that because she’s been great at her job of caring for others for the last 50 years, there are countless people out there who have depended on her too.
After the piece went in the world, she was mortified to be in the spotlight, but I was so proud. Unsentimental and dismissive of anything that might celebrate her, she wasn’t interested in the wave of kind messages that came in after NPR shared the story, but I loved them all. It felt like listeners all over the world were with me in rooting for her and her colleagues. Here’s the feature I produced: My 71-year-old mom is a nurse on the front lines of COVID-19. I’m worried. She’s not. (4 min) And here’s my interview with The Record’s Bill Radke about what it was like to produce the story, produced by Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong: When a parent is on Covid-19’s front lines (9 min)
Another perk to wielding a mic? Having a great excuse to reach out to the woman you’ve long admired who delivered the spiciest TED Talk in the history of all TED Talks ever.
I’m talking, of course, about Cindy “F that shit” Gallop, Advertising Woman of the Year and famous taker of no bullshit. (And yes, you bet I included the very bold opening line from her spicy presentation.) Here’s the feature: 'Shame changer': Sex tech CEO disrupts Asian stereotypes with adult films. (9 min) And here’s the statewide special broadcast I produced that it was part of that I had the good fortune of co-hosting with maverick musician Joe Kye*: On Asian America: Sex, gender and the 'exotic other' (60 min)
SOMETHING TO READ
This reported editorial on the erasure of Asian students was one of my most challenging and rewarding assignments.
For the story, I spoke with many students and teachers from the district where I had taught for six years. When the piece finally published after months of reporting, I crashed hard, sleeping like a teenager for a week. It felt like I had been waiting to tell this story since I left teaching in 2017.
Here it is: Whitewashing of Asian students and a report that launched a reckoning. And here’s the unexpectedly funny YouTube Meet the Newsmaker event where I unpack how the story came together with my editor, director, and former student, while also clarifying live for one commenter that journalists from working class backgrounds definitely exist because HERE I AM:
SOMETHING TO HOLD ON TO
Three years ago, I was wide-eyed and psyched about about being KUOW’s Community Engagement Producer. I had just launched a nerdy supper club to connect curious people to our newsroom, and I was loving being back in classrooms with reporter (now host) Patricia Murphy to talk with students about her Murrow Award-winning series on youth who carry guns.
However, I still felt like I was creeping from the sidelines trying to learn the mechanics behind how public radio magic was actually made. BUT THEN. I had the incredible opportunity to be part of Rob Rosenthal’s Transom Traveling Workshop and in one week I produced the story that would change everything for me. It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve ever made.
Here it is, my feature on the American Dream and the remarkable journey of my *future co-host Joe Kye. Thank you to The Slants Foundation for honoring this story with a 2020 Countering Hate Award. This link also includes a written Q&A on what it was like to produce something that felt so close to my own misfit experience of straddling multiple worlds: Between Joy and Suffering: How a first radio story came to life (7 min).
WOO HOO WHATEVER’S NEXT
That’s a wrap on issue 66, friends. Thanks for listening, reading, holding on. And thank you too for all of your love letters and fist-bump shout outs as I embark on this exciting next phase.
And yes, that RPR podcast is in the works and I am pumped. More on that front soon.
See you next Thursday.