Monday, July 9, 2007

West Coast Skinny III

Last week was full of fireworks and powerful moments for the West Coast interns. Although July 4th landed in the middle of the week, we were all kept busy covering stories, doing bookings, and finding our own voices.

A few highlights:

This week, Ellie met the young men and women who will be the voices in her piece on the transpac race. Standing on the docks of Long Beach, Ellie captured the sounds of the lapping water, boats, etc. along the dock and spoke with the team members of one of the youngest and most well-trained groups of transpac sailors. Although Ellie has gone out to cover stories for newspapers before, this was her first venture into the world of sound and radio. I went along as Ellie's producer, and I think both of us had a heightened sense of awareness about the sounds that enveloped us on the docks. Ellie's fourth of July was equally scintillating. She went out on a boat with her aunt and uncle and had a great view of the fireworks as they were launched from the Queen Mary, which is stationed in downtown Long Beach.

Over at News & Notes things are hectic, but that’s just the pace Kenya likes. For Kenya, there’s never a dull moment. This week she booked, scheduled and interviewed guests for shows on the controversial racial dissension around the Jena 6 trials in Louisiana, the promising Call Me Mister program in South Carolina which helps put more black male teachers in elementary classrooms, a not-so-surprising yet still dismal study on student’s performance in minority segregated schools, and possible closure of the last black theater in California. The most gratifying moment was when Kenya’s piece on Disparities Among Black and White Children With Autism aired. It was her piece from start to finish. “I was reading about Holly Pete Robinson’s ordeal with her autistic child and how much they were spending on the treatments and I wondered, how many people can really afford that,” Kenya says. The question led to research, the research led to her pitch, the pitch led to her sourcing guests, the sourcing led to awesome interviews and the interviews made for a fantastic, informative and emotional story. “One of our best lately,” says her senior supervising producer. After listening to the piece air, Kenya realized YES-- this is what it's all about...this is why I am here. A great NPR moment for Kenya indeed.

Meanwhile, at Day to Day, Bernie and I have struggled to schedule interviews in a process that one producer likened to "nailing jello to a wall." While I pursued Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul, Bernie worked to find a man who survived Katrina and moved to Texas, only to be flooded out yet again. As Bernie searched for the hurricane victim, I researched the impact of global warming for several stories. I looked into the cap and trade system Arnold Schwarzenegger is endorsing and gathered materials for an interview Day to Day will be having with the "governator" later this week. At the same time, I started looking at how the Netherlands and other coastal mega-cities are bracing for rising sea levels. I booked reporters in Indiana, Ohio, and New Mexico for a conversation this morning on defecting senators and I'm hoping to book Cameron Crowe for an interview to air on Friday, his birthday and mine. Last week, in honor of the 4th of July, I got to chat with a man who has written the definitive book on competitive eating (listen to Alex Cohen's interview with him here). Alex's piece on green weddings is up now too--thanks Allison for some great tips on going green!

Life here is such an adrenaline rush that sometimes it's easy to lose track of the small moments of triumph when a story airs, an interview lines up, you get the perfect clip, and the jello sticks to the wall. However, as all of us find our stride at NPR West, we've had a little more luck and a little more of a chance to find our perfect moments. Look for more West Coast adventure updates next week!

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