|Q&A with Host and Reporter/Producer KQED
Q&A with Kathryn Baron
What led you to your career in radio?
KB: I've always been a big fan of radio. It's probably the most personal medium as far as news is concerned, because people tend to listen to the radio when they're alone, or with their children. When I tell a story on radio, I feel as if I'm talking to one person at a time. I imagine people getting ready for work in the morning, driving in their cars or preparing dinner. That forces me to think very carefully about the words I use, the narrative style, the tone and the imagery created. I tried television news for a while, but found I couldn't make those connections. When I heard about a job opening in radio, I didn't have to think twice, and I've never regretted my choice.
What differences for better or worse have you found in public radio versus commercial stations where you have worked?
KB: Better-worse or apples-oranges? We have such different missions that there's definitely room for -- and a need for -- both. My first radio job was in commercial radio and initially I loved it. It's fast-paced, immediate and seemingly ubiquitous. Commercial radio is like a newspaper filled with headlines, and that does fill a need. What I longed for, though, was the chance to let stories breathe, to provide some depth and to peel away the layers that make up any news story. Public radio is the only place for that.
Given the seemingly countless sources of news information, how does public radio compete for audience share?
KB: We tell stories that include the day's news within them. It's no cliché that public radio gives you the why and how, in addition to the who, what and where of journalism. Our reports go beyond headlines to tell why this story is important and how it came to pass. We also reach beyond the usual suspects when it comes to interviews. Public radio has more time to seek out unique voices. That’s the strength of public radio—up-to-date news delivered in a creative and engaging fashion, and attention to diversity.
What was the most interesting story you have reported?
KB: There have been so many. I nearly always become absorbed in my stories. That's what I love about reporting. Whether I'm sitting in a school board meeting, visiting a classroom or talking to a parent, I can't help being awed, amused or moved by the way they face their challenges.
What do you see as the biggest challenges facing public radio news?
KB: You mean in addition to funding? Technology is rapidly changing everything about that little box called radio. From the Internet to satellites that will beam national radio programs directly into your car, we in radio are witnessing a brave new wireless world. Our goal -- our necessity really -- must be to help shape the future of programming on these media or risk becoming obsolete. They're not mutually exclusive technologies. As long as our work here at KQED remains grounded in high quality news gathering and reporting, it can be expanded and adapted to reach new audiences whether they're sitting at their computer or sitting behind the wheel of their cars.
What do you think the future holds in store for public radio -- both locally and nationally?
KB: I think we hold the future, not the other way around. Public radio holds a unique place of respect in this country, but that doesn't mean it should be considered untouchable. It should be quite the opposite: always reaching, always experimenting and always taking risks. We will succeed on the local, state and national arenas as long as we keep focused on our mission and philosophy. To me, it's the "public" ideal of public radio that sets us apart. By ensuring an open government, informing citizens about how policy decisions will affect their lives and engaging them in the discussion, we do more than provide a public service; we contribute to the health and preservation of the democracy.