KALX & Northgate Radio Create a Hands-on Radio Journalism Experience

December 1, 2017

Here at Cal, we’re fond of blue and gold. Both on the field and in the classroom, our students at all levels are renowned for their achievements, earning blue ribbons and gold medals in every discipline imaginable. Earlier this month, the 2017 College Broadcasters, Inc. National Student Electronic Media Convention in San Antonio were no different, with Berkeley claiming two out of the four nominees for “Best News Reporting - Audio”. We spoke with the two finalists, Ariel Plotnick and Christina Koningisor, to discuss their submissions and how their hands-on experience with KALX through its partnership with the J-School was instrumental in the development of their segments. You can check out both pieces, Ariel’s “Running Low on the 510” and Christina’s “DNA Algorithms”, on the J-School’s Soundcloud page.

While their respective academic paths were vastly different, for both Ariel and Christina, they converged in the J-School’s “Intro to Radio” class taught by Laura Klivans. For Ariel, it was a requirement for her graduate degree in journalism. She had worked in public radio for a while before grad school, mostly helping others produce their stories. She chose Berkeley because of what she called the most holistic program available, especially the opportunity to produce 30-minute radio programs that would air on KALX. In her own words, she likes to report on stories that make small subjects feel universal and big subjects feel intimate. For her award nominated piece, she was fascinated by the bureaucratic technicality that occurs when a city or region runs out of numbers for a certain area code. Her segment, “Running Low on the 510” is an exploration of the crossroads between culture and public utility. She did field interviews with the “area code expert of the Bay Area” and to try and understand the attachment to area codes that some people have. The result is a fascinating spotlight on a little-known and little-thought about part of our society.

For Christina on the other hand, her background was in law and legal studies. An academic fellowship at the Boalt’s Center for Law and Technology brought her to Berkeley from Yale and as she was deciding between electives one semester, she chose “Intro to Radio” over Arabic and never looked back. Her interest in DNA Algorithms began back when she was working on her J.D. with an article that she read in the Yale Law Review. The challenge, she says, was teasing out all of the legal jargon and focusing on just one aspect of the story. Her natural inclination was to try and get in the weeds with the law of the article but the professionals at the J-School worked with her to synthesizing it into a brilliant piece on the fallacy of DNA testing. Her biggest takeaway from the experience was realizing that at the end of the day, a good lawyer is really just a good storyteller. As she puts it, her foray into radio journalism helped her hone her ability to speak clearly and succinctly when making an argument. She’s currently working as a fellow in the legal department of the New York Times, a perfect position for her professional interest in litigation and her academic interest in privacy and law. As for what the future holds, she quips that the jury is still out on that one.

Here at ETS, we look forward to continuing to support the KALX/J-School partnership. We wish Ariel and Christina the best of luck in their future endeavors and look forward to one of them “bringing home the gold.”  

Post-Story Update: Ariel received the first place prize at the 2017 Student Production Awards! Congratulations Ariel!