over the landscape of Utah news talk radio, about 90% of what you'll
find is politically polarized with very little interview. Its not
exactly what you would call "standard", but it is the way
we've come to know how those shows are produced. A host picks a topic
and a side and rants for hours. Very few have made the effort to turn
that time into an open forum for guests and more importantly, their
audience, to join in a discussion without being told "how wrong
they are." Luckily for us that remaining 10% does a far better
job than the rest, like the show we're looking into
RadioActive (Weeknights at 6PM on KRCL) has been taking a provocative and engaging look at both community and national issues for nearly eight years now. Serving as half the news department for KRCL, the hour-long program with a daily variety of rotating hosts and topics covers every subject in the spectrum from political affairs and social standards to media matters and even local entertainment, all while maintaining the heart of the program as an interview and call-in show. I got the opportunity to chat with the Executive Producer of the show, Troy Williams, as well as all seven hosts about the show and the roles they play in keeping the program informative. Plus their thoughts on local broadcasting and a few other topics. (All photos by David Newkirk.)
Brandie Balken, Lorna Vogt, Tamrika Khvtisiashvili, Ashley Anderson, Flora Bernard & Troy Williams. Nick Burns (below), and Robert Nelson (unpictured)
Gavin: Hey everyone! First off, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Troy: Troy Williams, executive producer of RadioActive for 6 1/2 years. Former Eagle Forum intern turned militant queer.
Nick: Born in Iowa, grew up as a suburbs kid in Detroit; spent half my adult life in western Oregon; been living in Utah almost ten years. Have lived in many places around the world -- conservative parents (my mom liked Nixon, volunteered for Reagan); I have been left/progressive since high-school age, ever since seeing shanty-towns when living in Argentina.
Robert: Robert Nelson. From Fort Benton, Montana. Work at the University of Utah’s Marriott Library. Been doing radio on KRCL since 1988.
Lorna: Lorna Vogt, former social justice, non-profit director; current member of the public bureaucracy.
Tamrika: My name is Tamrika Khvtisiashvili. I am Georgian, which is a small country in the Caucasus. I study linguistics, with emphasis on indigenous endangered languages at the U. I like making films and learning how to play accordion. I also love politics and reading books and I love anything radio. I am lucky to be married to my best friend, John Bouzek. Together we run our business, Blue Plate Diner.
Flora: I'm a recent graduate of the U of U with a BA in Political Science, a local musician, and a writer at large. I'm an activist and an engaged citizen, and I like loud music and good conversation (but not at the same time). My favorite cocktail is a salty dog (tequila and grapefruit juice) and I always wear the same hat.
Brandie: Born and raised in rural Utah - degree in Botany and Chemistry from WSU. Longtime political advocate / activist, began my journey 21 years ago with Food Not Bombs, Seeds of Peace, Western Shonshone Defense Project, after coming out began working for NCLR, Utah Pride Center, SweRve, Equality Utah and of course - KRCL.
Ashley: I am a climate justice activist. That means, I think that climate-related issues are the most important of our time, that future generations deserve protection, as well as living people, especially indigenous. I am a co-founder and co-director of Peaceful Uprising, a climate activist organization that is headquartered in Salt Lake City. I participate in politics, and I am grateful to be alive in such an important moment in human history. I am a student at the University of Utah and am majoring in political science, whatever that is. I have been a Utahn all my life, growing up in Chris Buttars' district (West Jordan) and Moab. I consider myself a social libertarian. Love freedom, but believe there can be victims of freedom. Justice requires some rules.
Gavin: How did each of you first take an interest in radio?
Nick: My background had been print journalism, arts reporting, and not a lick of radio. But when I moved to Utah, I so liked KRCL, I pitched a show "Changing Channels/Alternate Takes"; which was accepted and the station gave me training -- clearly, I learned as I went along.
Lorna: Brainstorming with Gena Edvalson and Troy Mumm about shaking up public affairs at KRCL with something engaging and new that would get the audience involved. I was one of the original five hosts and fell in love with the show and opportunity to learn.
Tamrika: I have always loved radio. I grew up in the country Georgia when it was still part of the Soviet Union. Radio was what people listened to, all people. On TV there were only three channels and they were heavily controlled by the government. On the radio one was able to listen to music and once in a while in the middle of the night catch a very faint signal of BBC. Radio has always been the world that meant freedom and creativity. I have interned and volunteered at local radio stations and honestly it would probably be my dream job.
Flora: I have had a mild but enduring obsession with public radio since adolescence. I'm a known, admitted NPR junkie, although my favorite radio programs are seldom "newsworthy;" my shows of choice are story shows, like “This American Life” and “The Moth Radio Hour”.
Ashley: I love mass communication, so I became interested in radio at a very early age. I was always attracted to the idea of utilizing broadcast technology for exploring ideas -- with the goal of reaching a community-based type of consensus, or at least, an informed decision about where to go next. When I was nine, I used to interview my little brother and record it on a chintzy little tape deck, pretending we were on the radio. I got butterflies the first time I actually called into a station to talk to the DJ's. I still get butterflies when I am about to go on air.
Robert: I heard an announcement for new volunteer orientation while having dinner with my roommate at The Pie. They were looking for an early morning reggae host and I was developing an interest and sizable collection in reggae music and had done some low fi radio at the U of U’s KUTE as an undergraduate. I was a total “Smile Jamaica” fan before I became co-host in 1989 and then host in 1990. Have been at the station ever since.
Brandie: When my colleagues started hosting RadioActrive, I started listening religiously.
Troy: I was politicized after 9/11. I didn't understand the geo-political landscape enough to comprehend what had happened. As the Bush Administration started it's drumbeat for war, I noticed that the only media outlet in Utah that was offering an anti-war perspective was KRCL. I started volunteering on the fledgling show RadioActive and three months later I was hired to be the producer.
Gavin: Did any of you seek out college or any professional training before getting into broadcasting?
Lorna: Not a damn bit.
Flora: I did not, but I am thinking of angling my graduate studies in that direction.
Brandie: Nope, I had done a LOT of theatre and some TV, but radio was a whole new game for me.
Troy: I have a film degree. I've learned most of everything I know on the job.
Tamrika: I got my bachelors degree in film, that's where I met and became friends with Troy Williams. Although I think film and radio have very little in common.
Nick: My day job: Coordinator of the Communication Department at SLCC. I teach mostly mass communication -- media writing, and so on. I also taught video production up at the U for a few years. I have an MA in English, Journalism, and Creative Writing; completed a PhD program in Telecommunications and Film, mostly theory and criticism.
Ashley: No. I was on the show a few times and then Troy asked me if I would be interested in hosting. I am now enrolled in a radio journalism course at the University of Utah, and to my pleasant surprise, my instructor is Dan Bammus. Awesome. I'm learning the ins-and-outs of audio software and on-site reporting via radio. Also, awesome.
Gavin: When did you first hear about KRCL, and what did you think of the station?
Lorna: Always knew about it but it was in the background because the music shows were too random. I like public affairs more than bluegrass. I love the station and its mission and even its crazy volunteers each of whom thinks s/he owns the station, which is a good thing if not a trying thing.
Nick: Found KRCL when moving here.
Ashley: KRCL and I are exactly the same age. It was, and remains, the place I turn to when I want to hear something new. Corporate, repetitive radio has nearly taken over. But if I turn it to 90.9, I'm getting something new. Like a vacation into a new musical territory. I might like it, I might not, but I get to hear something new. RadioActive is the same way. Whenever I find it on, I give it 20 minutes at least. All novelty.
Robert: Moved to SLC in 1986. When KCGL the terrific indie rock radio station at the time was changed to religious programming. I was lost for quality radio and someone pointed me towards KRCL and community radio as an alternative to commercial radio.
Brandie: The first time I heard KRCL I was probably 7 or 8. We used to listen to it all the time when I was working on projects with my Mom - stained glass, jewelry making - KRCL was the soundtrack. I remember the first time I donated I must have been about 12 (because I had allowance money to spend). I had recently gotten hooked on the Saturday reggae show - I actually did a report in 7th grade English class about reggae music thanks to my new-found love and knowledge from KRCL. My Mom and I were hanging clothes out on the line listening to Radiothon. I called in and pledged $10 - and that was the first time I heard my name on the radio, and my first foray into supporting causes I believe in.
Tamrika: I had this amazing animation teacher in college, I can't remember his name. He had a music show on KRCL and I would listen to it. I remember trying to ask if I could have a show, because I wanted to play music, but it seemed so unrealistic that I never really pursued it. I continued to listen to KRCL over the years, although I listen more now than ever before.
Flora: I've been listening to KRCL ever since I moved back to Salt Lake from the south. I love it; it's an essential component of Salt Lake City's unique, quirky, excellent community. Plus they have, hands down, the best tunes in town.
Gavin: How did you find out about RadioActive and how did you become a part of the show?
Flora: I got involved in RadioActive through Peaceful Uprising.org, a nonviolent direct action group aimed at combating catastrophic climate change.
Tamrika: Troy Williams and I met in film school. We became friends right away. After we graduated we hadn't seen each other for a while, but ran into each other somewhere. He asked if I would sit in during RadioActive to cover a shift, I agreed and somehow that one time turned into a regular thing. I don't actually remember how that part happened.
Robert: I helped to start RadioActive when I and Lorna Vogt, another progressive and future RadioActive host in the community, opened the phone lines on “Smile Jamaica” for three hours of listener call ins when the Iraq invasion happened in March 2003. That was so well received by listeners and staff that the idea for RadioActive began to form with Gena Edvalson who was the Public Affairs staffer at the time for the station. I did the very first interview Labor Day 2003.
Nick: When R.A. first began, Gena Edvalson asked me to be a part of the show -- she had originally trained me.
Ashley: I had been a listener for years, then my organization took a band of students to Washington DC for the Powershift '09 conference, and participated in the largest act of civil disobedience in climate activism history (the Capitol Climate Action). When we came back, we were invited on to RadioActive to talk about our experience. I was invited back later to talk about something else, and after a few local actions that made some waves, a few members of our organization, Peaceful Uprising, were invited to guest host the show.
Brandie: As I mentioned, I had a few friends who were hosts. When one of my friends retired and moved out of state she recommended me as a possible replacement. Troy asked me to come down and audition/train - and then brought me in.
Gavin: What was your first time hosting the show like, and what was it like for you fitting into that role once a week?
Nick: Well, nervous, but also it felt comfortable in a way, me and a mic, like I knew what I was doing -- but I sure didn't. I had to learn shorter sentences, simple short questions, Once/week is great -- we are very non-host-centric. I credit Troy w/giving me the great opportunities to talk with wonderful people, people who have great stories to share, great books they've written, cool things they're doing. I love helping get news and info out, that other stations and media don't carry.
Troy: My first show was awful. I was super-excited and nervous and it sounded like I was amped up on caffeine.
Ashley: My first show was like my other shows since: butterflies and enthusiasm. I had a leading author, as well as an actual climate scientist, in the room. I didn't want them to know it was my first show, so, I didn't tell them. But not knowing how to do something never stopped me from doing it. It was probably an awful show. As far as fitting it into my life once a week, it is getting easier, but more exciting at the same time. I can't think of a chore that I would rather have. Research and scripting are getting easier, and my guests have taught me so much. I'm starting to see the results of my interviews in other places. It is so rewarding to be a volunteer at KRCL.
Brandie: The first time was a little nerve wracking. I felt like I had to know everything about the subject - which incidentally was the rise of the Christian right - this was back in 2006. I was utterly over-prepared - which I soon learned isn't really the point. It isn't my job to know everything about the issue - it's my job to ask the questions that will open the conversation and engage the listener. It took me a few months to settle in to a schedule of research and show prep - and now I only host occasionally, so I try to fall back on my Sunday afternoon research habits.
Robert: First show was a phone call in, so it wasn’t as distracting as having the guest in the studio. But it was liberating to be able to offer a different perspective compared to the lack of progressive viewpoints from the corporate media. I’ve always been a political junkie and my undergraduate degrees are in Middle East history so it was a good fit for my interests and I had fifteen years of on air experience so I was comfortable with that part already. Plus in 2003 there was no credible alternative to Bush’s Oil Wars and Robin Hood in reverse tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of working people and the invisible poor. So I was enthusiastic about being involved in something that was unflinching in a commitment to be Anti-war, anti-corporate greed, anti “anti-intellectual” as a counterweight to the dominance of the Corporate Media world wide and in Utah. I’ve often been called by friends and listeners “The Angry Liberal”. I’m cool with that. Because if you’re not pissed off at the American political shit-stem, as Peter Tosh would say, you’re either not paying attention or you’re benefiting from this lack of democracy from the two party system which is just twin wings of the corporate party.
Flora: It was incredibly exhilarating and slightly dreamy; I was lucky enough to have a guest whom I actually know personally, and she was in-studio, so it wasn't nearly as intimidating as my second interview. I have listened to enough public radio to know the basic rhythm and ropes, and I have always felt like I'd have a knack for it; turns out I do (although of course I have a whole lot to learn, still) and the validation was incredibly gratifying. So, effectively, it has been a dream come true.
Tamrika: For my first show I think I interviewed a filmmaker. I am sure I was nervous but I remember being more excited than nervous. Doing the show once a week is really great, because I get to research and learn about new stuff every week. It only sucks when I want to leave town.
Lorna: I can't remember my first show other than being nervous but also thrilled -- the power! Seriously, it was a thrill and a great challenge, and I found it to be a good motivator to my week -- staying on top of the news and thinking more deeply about what I and potential listeners might want ask.
Gavin: How is it for you each working with Troy Williams as the producer?
Lorna: Love him!
Nick: What can I say about a great producer? If I get sick, I call Troy first. Without Troy, I couldn't host R.A. -- he finds me excellent guests, he does all the pre-interview stuff. Really, I just show up on time.
Tamrika: Troy is a great asset to our community. His energy is definitely an inspiration. On a personal level, he is very supportive. In the beginning he would kindly tell me what worked and what didn't. Instead of telling me that I sucked, he would say, why don't you try this... he is a great friend, I would work for him anywhere anytime.
Brandie: Great. Troy has an amazingly rich political, spiritual and social vocabulary - and he is always looking for ways to broaden it. His commitment to seeking out new ways of talking about and understanding the issues in our world has made me a much more informed and interested student of this awe inspiring and terrifying life.
Robert: Troy is terrific. We are lucky to have him. He has a tremendous amount of energy and sincere passion for progressive politics and the success of RadioActive as compelling radio with terrific guests. He always lines up great interviews based on my political interests but will also assign me unique topics that are beyond my political focus. His organizational capacity as producer allows me to just concentrate on performing the interview. He’s good enough and isn’t afraid of work. He could move up to a bigger media venue like Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now”. He would be very difficult to credibly replace. So I have a selfish hope he stays with us at KRCL.
Ashley: He is an inspiration, a mentor, and a friend. I have zero complaints. Every time he speaks I learn something. I feel really lucky.
Flora: Troy is one of my favorite people in all of Utah. I don't think I would have been able to dive into hosting nearly as fearlessly and enthusiastically, without his guidance and encouragement. He is constantly urging us to be braver, better people than we might otherwise be. Troy is one in a million. I feel incredibly blessed that he took me under his proverbial wing.
Troy: Love him!
Gavin: What is it like for each of you in planning out a show every week?
Troy: I kick ideas around with the hosts, or if something comes up I assign them the topic. I have a strong sense of who likes what, and often try to play to each host's strengths. But then I also like to challenge them too. Robert is most comfortable with national and international politics, but sometimes I like to throw him a queer show just to push him a bit.
Brandie: Generally it is fascinating - although every now and again, I will get a show that doesn't resonate with me, and I find myself spending hours on something I really don't care to know about.
Lorna: In the old days, we got together once a month to brainstorm ideas and set up a schedule of topics. It was a fun four hours! Now Troy does the hard work, and I enjoy it more because he is a pro and we have to be radio hosts rather than picking shows that could become a platform for our pet issues.
Flora: It's fun and challenging and different every time. Sometimes the show literally writes itself; other times I have to really dig and try to find an angle that will draw people in and hold their attention, in a way that's universal and applicable to their lives. No matter how much work it requires, it is always worth it when people are inspired to get involved in their community.
Nick: I spend a fair amount of time -- a few hours each week -- developing questions, reading the books if they're an author. I bring about three pages of notes and questions or more each week. Sometimes I don't even use much of my notes, but I always want to have something. I like having an opening to read, it's familiar.
Ashley: The main challenge isn't figuring out what is possible, its making the most out of what is possible. I consider every show a tool for my activism, an opportunity to do real work. The challenge is doing it right, and coming up with the most effective show ideas. It is stressful, because you are never an expert in topics before your show starts. But the motivation to learn more has helped me learn -- a LOT.
Robert: Since my day is Monday, I pack most of my information preparation Sunday night and Monday afternoons so the information is fresh in my mind for the hour interview. I’ll read an entire book on a Sunday if need be. I ignore the topic until either Sunday night or Monday. I then try and pull together my notes, factoids, stats to have handy for the interview. I’ll get down to the station around 4:30 and will write out questions and compose my introduction. I don’t like to do any of this prior to Monday because I feel I lose a lot of insights and lack a sort of “deadline” focus. Everything is packed into my head and ready to come out in time for a 6PM interview. For me the most stressful part of the interview is the twenty minutes before 6PM. Because I am usually raring to go and am fidgety and anxious to start.
Tamrika: It is actually a lot of work. We all have such different styles. For me I like to know enough of the issue so I don't sound like an idiot, but I don't like “becoming” an expert. I like keeping some mystery to the topic, so that way my questions are genuine. I strive to ask questions that might audience might have as well.
Gavin: Considering all the topics involved, do you view the show as more journalistic, political, entertaining, etc?
Lorna: Political and entertaining and some journalistic. We are not pros but we do get great guests, and there are always, without fail, wonderful kernels in each show.
Robert: I’m not a journalist. I’m definitely biased usually towards the same point of view of the guest. We’re not conducting a debate but attempting to inform listeners on a topic. I’m trying to increase awareness on the individual interview but also try and tie it together with similar themes of previous interviews: Essentially it doesn’t matter which party is in power: Bush or Obama. Both cater to the Military and Wall Street at the expense of democracy. I knew that Obama was not going to be a progressive from day one and on January 2009 I warned listeners to not just take for granted he would be better than Bush. I quite frequently call him Obummer on air because of the many ways he has betrayed the progressives who got him past Hillary and McCain. He’s a Crypto-Democrat. As for the interview itself: I try to make it entertaining from a listening perspective. Best way to do that is to be super prepared. Often times, especially, with authors, I can tell that they take a strong interest when they discover I actually read the entire book or know more than just the promotional preparation their publicist emailed me. That elicits good results from a motivated guest. I hope that listeners come away informed and maybe inspired to investigate further or take some sort of action. I walk a fine line between being genuinely exasperated with the “villains” without trying to sound too hectoring or holier than thou. My personal inspiration is Keith Olbermann on MSNBC Countdown if you ever watch him. He’s pissed because he roots for the underdog. And so do I. Plus I think I have absorbed so much from reggae music that preaches this idea of “the meek and humble” are victimized by the rich and powerful. That philosophy has influenced my political philosophy very much. In reggae they sing a lot about socialism with a small “s”. Not an ism or schism as Bob Marley sang, but a notion that too much wealth and power is wrong amongst so much visible poverty. So many songs they recorded in the 70's are so applicable today to the War on Terror, Wall Street’s greed, climate degradation etc.
Flora: The show is a combination of politics, topical journalism, community activism, entertainment, and cultural commentary. It's kind of amazing how neatly all of these seemingly disparate elements are tied in during each RadioActive hour; when you start writing shows, it becomes increasingly impossible to ignore how interrelated all of these issues truly are.
Tamrika: Hmmm. Well, I am not trying to cope out of this question, but I do think it is all of those.
Ashley: Exploratory. The show has a deep sense of curiosity. I think the topics are very political, on average. But if I had to label the show, I'd say it was exploratory activism.
Brandie: Hmmm... I would say educational. Sometimes it is one or more of the things you mentioned - but for me the overarching purpose is to inform people about what else is out there. The voices on R.A. are not the mainstream, and it's a very powerful venue for people who feel excluded from the corporate narrative to find an accessible alternative that they can get involved with.
Nick: Depends -- sometimes, like talking with Michael Klare about world oil, it news and political. With Ramona Sierra, she's a whale whisperer. I've interviewed a casket maker from Idaho, peace activists from the Middle East, and folks digging for gold in the Dream Mine. I'm not an investigative journalist, but I'm not a blowhard pundit either. I hope I facilitate people in getting their stories out.
Troy: The show is both political and social, from a left leaning point of view. We focus on grassroots activism both local and national. And we also like to feature the activists who are working to create a more just, sustainable and peaceful future.
Gavin: Being a host, what do you personally try to showcase when it comes to your topics?
Tamrika: Curiosity about the topic.
Nick: I try to find a thread in the material that interests me, and hope it interests everyone.
Troy: When I host, I try to span the spectrum. I often fill in when people are out of town.
Lorna: I try to get people thinking about the less obvious questions. Sometimes on the left, we think we know it all or we fall back on Rachel Madow's response rather than pushing ourselves to look at issues from a sociological or cultural way. We should never assume we have the answers.
Brandie: Respect. I am truly humbled by the opportunity to talk with people who are profoundly involved in changing the world, in this I include, guests, callers and the folks at KRCL.
Robert: I try to make the guest feel welcomed and relaxed so they don’t think the interview is an interrogation. I try to think of it as a conversation. But hopefully I try to ask good questions that can elaborate a good response. Once again it comes down to trying to be prepared on the topic. I want to ask questions that bring out the best information from the guest, but I also like the chance to go on a rant or give my own insights.
Ashley: Two things: Human stories and options for taking action in real life. Topics can get so scientific -- I try to fight it off and bring it back home. RadioActive shouldn't be a lecture, it should be a campfire -- a pow-wow that pulls thousands in close. Humans connect to the information of topics most effectively through personal stories, and through being given real options as to how they can participate. As a host, you have to work for that, otherwise you are just talking about something.
Flora: I like to bring it home for folks; even if it's a sincerely national issue, I like to show how people are empowered to get involved and make a difference at a local level. If they can’t, I want to make them explore the reasons why.
Gavin: Each of you bring something different to the show, whether it be personality or subject matter or just feeling. What's your take on your fellow hosts and how they impact that show in different ways?
Troy: Monday: Robert is my angry liberal. Defiant and suspicious. His knowledge of the Middle-East, the war on drugs, the surveillance industrial complex, and the legalize marijuana movement is unparalleled. Tuesday: Nick is my utility man. He can handle absolutely any topic with flare. He's an encyclopedia of world events with a deep understanding of media matters, leftist social movements, and neoliberal demagoguery. Wednesday: Brandie Balken or Lorna Vogt as rotating subs. Brandie is my eco-conscious queer activist. She has a deep understanding of social structures that include and expand human rights. She is also my organic gardener who will be most likely to live happily in a post-carbon world. Lorna is RadioActive's Terry Gross but with more substance. She is a true local policy wonk and advocate for the public sphere. Thursday: Tamrika is my hipster linguist. She is connected to everything cool in SLC. She also brings a global voice and perspective. Friday: Ashley Anderson and Flora Bernard from "Peaceful Uprising", these are my new activist hosts. We call their shows "Friday Uprisings" because they tend to focus on the spectrum of climate justice.
Robert: I like that we all have varying backgrounds and experiences. I love to hear the topics that aren’t always heavy politics. Brandie and her focus on environment and gardening. I love Tamrika’s voice and style. Nick is terrific from a similar academic perspective that I have. But to be honest, when I listen to them, I’m not always focusing on what is said but how they conduct the interview. So I can try and improve what I am doing.
Ashley: I think that radio is the wrong venue for these sexy beasts. Fox News TV would surely showcase them and their opinions more appropriately.
Brandie: WOW! That is a tough one. I think I can sum it up best by saying that each of us has unique strengths and Troy has done a great job of finding and grooming hosts that can effectively handle a wide range of topics intuitively and professionally.
Flora: They are all so different, and so excellent; every RadioActive host brings something special to the table. It keeps the show jazzy and fun and different every time. I think that the main thing is that Troy ensures the right host or hostess get the topic that suits him or her best; no one ever has to do a show on a topic about which they really don't care. There's enough passion among the RadioActive host battalion to fuel a minor revolution.
Lorna: I think the group is amazing because we each have our own strengths. Troy has put together a truly diverse group from young activists to us older voices. We bring our own style to a slate of topics, and none of us gets to settle into a comfort zone.
Tamrika: I love that we are all different. Robert is so thorough and so knowledgeable about the topics and he is full of conspiracy theories and such. Nick is just a great journalist, he knows how to do things “right”. He sounds so professional! The new peaceful uprising people are full of energy and enthusiasm that's great for RadioActive. They are involved, they care and they are able to talk about it in a very progressive and engaging way!
Nick: It's like we're the A-Team or something -- each of us tends to be good in different things -- we have different areas of knowledge. I couldn't do what the other hosts do.
Gavin: To date, what's been your personal favorite moment or interview?
Nick: So many -- from a larger place, people like Studs Terkel, Molly Ivins, James Lovelock, Melvin Goodman, General Janis Karpinski, Angela Davis, Jill Bolte Taylor, Salim Amin, John Amaechi, Laura Flanders -- and more local: David Irvine, David Litvak, Judi Hilman, Vanessa Pierce, Bruce Bastian -- really, each week is something special. I like talking with Mike Noel, I like talking with fans of Star Trek.
Flora: I thought that Michael Brune (the Sierra Club's new president) was a thrill and a half; I was still so new at hosting, and he's so close to celebrity-dom, I felt like a total rock star. Also he was friendly, engaging, interesting, and sharp as a tack. I just wish he'd been in the studio. At the same time, every show I've done with live music has been a riot. I love getting musicians in the studio; it's a great way to really keep them in their element and on the level.
Tamrika: I interviewed this guy who was a physics professor at Stanford, he was blind and rode motorcycles and believed he could see through the walls, I loved talking to him. For whatever reason Troy always gives me weird sex shows, they are always funny, because people say the most wacked out stuff. I like shows that can be funny and serious at the same time. Recently we were talking about drug cortex problems in Juarez, Mexico. We had a call from a Mexican woman from there. She was really emotional and had experienced exactly what our show was about. It was great to reach out to people on such a personal level.
Robert: Probably interviewing Howard Zinn. To be able to speak one on one with a personal hero was thrilling. My favorite interviews tend to be the controversial ones. Especially regarding 9/11 conspiracy shows. Stephen Jones from BYU, who talked about how the ten second free fall was from a physics point of view, impossible from planes hitting the Towers, David Ray Griffin who wrote the book New Pearl Harbor. Because of my academic background I really love the shows regarding Middle East politics: Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine/Israel, Al Qaeda.
Troy: One of the most moving experiences I have ever had was when Lorna interviewed Ward Churchill on the topic of colonialism and manifest destiny. I loved when Tamrika interviewed FLDS leaders who were challenging their pedophile public image. We've had the honor of interviewing activist legends like Angela Davis, Howard Zinn, Studs Terkel, Utah Phillips etc., And I love non-political shows like Ashley's recent effort to ban phrases we hate, like "I know, right?" and "that's so gay!" or Flora's recent show on the Provo music scene with Fictionist and Isaac Russell.
Ashley: I asked David Cobb (3rd place in 2004 presidential race) to describe a typical morning in the world he wanted. He was caught off-guard, but quickly caught on in. I saw his imagination connect to his heart, and it became real to him as he described his eden in detail. By utilizing the setting of radio, he opened a door to another possible reality. It was beautiful.
Lorna: I got to interview two young soldiers, one man and one woman, each of whom talked from their hearts about their service and feelings. I was amazed at both of them and thrilled I had the privilege of talking to them.
Brandie: There have been quite a few important moments for me. I could take the easy out on this and mention some of the amazingly famous people I got to interview: Alice Walker, Corbin Harney, Robert Kennedy Jr, Howard Zinn. I can think of three that changed my life : the interview with Riane Eisler about her book "The Chalice and the Blade" - the interview with Lisa Duggan about her book " The Twilight of Equality" and my interview on Transcendental Meditation... all incredible moments
Gavin: What impact do you believe RadioActive has on both local radio and the community as a whole?
Robert: I know that many listeners who appreciate what Doug Fabrizio does with Radio West on KUER like how we cover similar ground with more progressive guests. I also believe that since George Bush and the Iraq Invasion, there are many who don’t believe that an anti-war perspective is given a fair discussion by the corporate media and RadioActive can fill a niche while also allowing listeners to call in and give their perspective without feeling belittled by the usual barking dogs on talk radio.
Tamrika: Random people tell me that they recognize my voice and enjoy the show. I always think those are the most genuine comments. When a friend tells you that they listened and that you were good, I always think they are just being nice. Although my husband John is my harshest critic, he tells me when the show sucks. I know I can trust his opinion.
Lorna: It is a great alternative that is reliably progressive and never lazy. It broadens the spectrum, and I like to think it keeps both the PBS stations and the conservatives on their toes or at least a bit off balance.
Ashley: The beauty is that you never know. RadioActive reaches the ears of many people, and the ideas therein take on lives of their own. I hope that positive, unmeasurable results are happening everyday. I think they are.
Brandie: Hmm... I think above all it has given marginalized and ostracized people a voice - a place where they can hear some of their views and values reflected back at them, This makes the entire community healthier, stronger and more vibrant.
Nick: I believe in the media marketplace, where multiple views are available. But with media ownership consolidation, fewer and fewer voices are out there. KRCL and R.A. are critical in maintaining and serving the marketplace of ideas. Democracy dies without a plethora of media viewpoints.
Troy: The public media landscape is under constant threat. Media consolidation is gobbling up everything and the public sphere is being privatized and bought up by big corporations. Their main objective is to make money for their shareholders. And they don't critique themselves. These are our airwaves, they belong to the people. They shouldn't be bought and sold for profit. A healthy democracy depends on exposure to diverse opinions and attitudes. I hope we bring a perspective that is not being considered in the corporate media.
Flora: I think it's an unparalleled local resource. Not only does it address any and all of the topics other Utah media won't touch with a ten-foot pole; it allows listeners to actually literally join the conversation, and ask questions of folks to whom they would otherwise have no access. Plus it offers opportunities to get involved, locally, and education about community resources. It's a Godsend for progressives in this red, red state of ours.
Gavin: Going state-wide for a bit, what's your take on broadcast reporting in Utah, both good and bad?
Troy: I'm always impressed with KUER's newsroom. Jenny Brundin kicks ass. And I have a crush on Doug Fabrizio. But don't we all?
Lorna: Ditto on the crush on Doug Fabrizio and Jenny Brundin's reporting. I can't listen to the red-meat radio and won't subject myself to it no matter who says I should listen so I know what "they" are up to. They can play with themselves; I will indulge in sanity and reason.
Nick: What reporting? The NPR Affiliates do a good job, I think, but how many reporters is that? Otherwise, it seems to me mostly car wrecks, traffic jams, and dead people.
Ashley: It's Okay. I've lived in other states, and it is right on-par.
Tamrika: I think we are lucky to have KCPW and KUER. Both of those stations do a great job and I like to support both of them. I don't listen to news anywhere else.
Flora: I'm a fan of KCPW as well as KRCL; I've always been pretty happy with the local radio stations, but I'm not brave enough to flip on the Beck or the Savage. I guess I limit my exposure to toxicity as much as possible. Call me a coward; I like to listen to the stations that report on the things I care about. I think KCPW does a fairly awesome job of neutrally and thoroughly reporting on local news; anything else I need, I flip on KRCL.
Robert: I don’t “consume” any corporate media in Utah: don’t listen to commercial or talk radio; don’t read the Salt Lake Tribune or Deseret News. I read City Weekly for a more critical take on local news.
Brandie: I think it runs the gamut. There are some great things happening in Utah - I think the very best of it is in community radio - KRCL, KZMU, KCPW, KUER, you get the point.
Gavin: Are there any aspects of it you wish you could change or improve?
Robert: Archiving past shows is important because often times people will talk to me about wanting to hear a show they missed.
Flora: I'd like a little more access to diverse news sources, as opposed to having to stay up until 2AM to hear the BBC's take on what's actually going down in American and the world.
Nick: Of KRCL, or R.A., or media in general? I would like low power FM to come to Utah, for my students. I would like more people to tune in to KRCL -- it's a very powerful community resource.
Tamrika: I would like people to understand and know the importance of fully locally produced radio station like KRCL. It truly is a great asset to this community. I think having more than one radio station is actually a positive thing, because that way people just listen to the radio more often and can switch from one station to another.
Lorna: I would like more training and feedback. It is a tremendous opportunity and privilege, and I don't want to let listeners down.
Brandie: I think the main thing I would change would be more of it... the more voices there are the better.
Ashley: Overall, there needs to be more emphasis on non-corporate radio. Stations are too willing to sell out. More community radio!
Troy: More listeners and more opportunities to reach people who don't share our political bent. That's happening. KRCL's format change a couple years back has led to a significant increase in listenership. That is spilling over into RadioActive. People who are tuning in to hear great music are also being exposed to RadioActive and “Democracy Now”. That's a great thing! Figuring out how to best use multiple platforms to get our show out is always on our mind.
Gavin: What's your take on community radio today and how its holding up against corporate and satellite radio?
Lorna: I think it will become even more popular as the rest of the radio band becomes even more predictable and cold.
Troy: Like I said before, public media is shrinking. Everything is for sale. We need people to invest in their community by financially sustaining the public stations that they love. KRCL is doing well against an ever changing media landscape. But it's wise to never take anything for granted.
Flora: It's one of the few bastions of unbiased, actual reporting we have left. It's something to which we should cling like sinking sailors to flotsam. Call me a “doomsayer”, but recent developments imply, to me, that corporate rule isn't going anywhere anytime soon, and if we want to know the actuality and the truth of our situation in Utah and at large, we best be pledging every spare dime to corporate-free public radio.
Ashley: It's holding, but it is not something you can take for granted. I hope that people realize that it isn't something that can be taken for granted. There should be more community radio stations.
Nick: It's hard these days -- who's not listening to Pandora? I know I do -- most of the kind of changes that KRCL did last year, community radio did twenty years ago. But what's important: community radio is local; that's what matters, and that's what listeners like and want. We are local voices, local attitudes, local interest. If KRCL simply showed up now, it'd be almost impossible, if not completely impossible, to start a community radio station today.
Robert: It’s struggling. When I started twenty years ago, the only real competition was other radio stations and boom boxes/stereos. Now there is iPods, twelve disk CD changer, satellite and internet radio. The best thing going for terrestrial community radio is that it is free and local and devoted to music and information not profit. But we have to maintain a competitiveness in all these competing options and we can compete for our share of the internet audience too. I know that I have a lot of non-local listeners who find KRCL, “Smile Jamaica” and RadioActive: former Utah residents and others interested in the uniqueness of individuality that community radio can provide.
Brandie: The argument could be made that we live in a coporatocracy - but I believe that the stronger and more powerful corporate interests become, the more tenacious and organized grassroots communities become.
Tamrika: In general it is definitely more difficult for radio stations to compete with Pandora, internet, easy access to personal music on laptops and iPods. But radio is so different, it is so much more immediate. It provides its listeners with the connection to the rest of the world and to their communities.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you and the show the rest of the year?
Nick: More of the same, I hope -- more stories showcasing what's possible, what's out there that we can achieve.
Tamrika: More great, engaging, important, fun, informative conversations about the topics that matter.
Robert: I plan on exposing the crypto-fascism of the tea party and the Right. As well as Obummer’s selling out of the left and progressives while pretending to be a populist.
Brandie: More progressive talk radio...
Ashley: I will be focusing on creating shows that are more share-able. I want each RadioActive that I participate in to be something that someone who is fighting for climate justice (or human enlightenment, or both) wants to pass around as a resource.
Lorna: More pushing back and asking the good questions.
Flora: I'll keep rocking the free world as long as they let me!
Troy: I'm hoping a kick-ass debate between Matheson and Wright. Alex Zaitchick's new book on Glenn Beck, Uncommon Nonsense, and coverage of the Tim DeChristopher trial. And we'll also be watching Representative Sandstrom's bill to have Utah mirror Arizona's harsh immigration law.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, if there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Nick: Support community media -- your democracy needs it, your neighbors need it, and you need it. We need it.
Lorna: Listeners: send us your show ideas! Who do you want us to talk to?
Tamrika: Call us during the show! It feels so good to get the phone calls! Then we know you really are listening.
Flora: Well, KRCL just started playing my band, La Farsa; we gave them our demo, and they dug us! Our record release is on June 5th at the Urban Lounge, and we have a lot of shows coming up this summer before we hit the road for our very first tour. It's exciting, so feel free to plug us if you're so inclined; that would be swell as heck!
Brandie: I would say no matter your interest, or your passion - you can find a local non-profit organization dedicated to it. Please support them - we are all in this together and we must stand for each other.
Ashley: As the year goes on, we will be producing more "fridayUPRISING" shows, that will focus on the climate crisis and related issues. You can check out previous ones at PeacefulUprising.org. I'd also like to plug my fellow hosts, but that just doesn't sound right. Also, vote for Claudia Wright in the Democratic primaries. For heaven's sakes, you might never get a chance like this again.
Troy: KRCL's "summer fling" two-day Radiothon will June 23 and 24, including a big kick off party at the station June 23 from 5-8. Live music, booze, screen-printing and see RadioActive in person! There are other talents behind the scene too. Alana Berman has been producing shows for us recently. She is the newest addition to the KRCL family. And the shows are sometimes directed by veteran volunteer, Mike Walton, who jumps in when I can't be there. Also, our operations manager, Tino Arana is essential to the show. He makes sure that our sound quality is good. He trouble-shoots every possible problem and calms me when I'm panicking about something. Ryan Tronier, our program director, is a tremendous support. I couldn't do my work without them. KRCL has placed a lot of trust in us. They allow us to bring on radical folks and explore subversive ideas and never question our intention. That's what's great about community radio. We don't have to be beholden to corporate influences. We can push boundaries.