Interview: Devin Katayama

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Devin Katayama
Devin Katayama (Liz Linder Photography)

KQED News strives to cover the entire Bay Area, and its coverage of the East Bay has improved dramatically with the addition of two award-winning reporters, Devin Katayama and Sandhya Dirks, whose focus is on equity issues in Oakland.

Devin Katayama joined KQED News in the spring of 2015 from WFPL Louisville Public Media, where he worked as a reporter and midday host.

What attracted you to work at KQED?
KQED is the public media big leagues. It has a reputation for leading the conversation in the industry. Now I get a chance to help to expand KQED's public media resume, which means continuing to think outside the box and try new things that help the station connect with current and new audiences.

Is there a particular issue that you are passionate about covering? I'm passionate about education. Prior to journalism, I was preparing to teach high school English. Human development, especially in the earlier years, is what shapes our community later. And schools are where many families connect with services and where many families turn for help.

You and Sandhya have been described as an enterprise team focusing on equity issues in Oakland. Can you explain what that means?
An enterprise reporter has traditionally been one who researches, pitches and reports original stories. An enterprising team uses this same process but works in tandem to cover significant issues.


We’re trying to take the traditional idea of enterprise reporting and make our stories go further. This can mean more community conversations, project-based reporting or just spending time with one particular story. The ideas are only limited by our imaginations.

By focusing on equity issues, we commit to reporting stories on people and places that are either underserved, underrepresented or given disproportionate attention, but are critically important to a neighborhood, city or region.

I’d like to connect the dots between investment in early childhood education and quality-of-life indicators later in life — where that’s happening and not happening in Oakland. Another important topic is displacement. As housing prices continue to rise and changing demographics are altering what the city looks like, who is moving where and why?

Why is covering the East Bay important to you?
Quality reporting of East Bay issues is lacking. Oakland and the East Bay are changing so much right now, yet many of its new residents, myself included, don't know much about its rich history. KQED has a great opportunity to tell the story of a changing region.

Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA
Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA (iStock)

Is there a recent story you’ve covered that's stuck with you?
The story of the 12th Street market-rate apartment tower development in Oakland that led to protesters shutting down a City Council meeting represents a changing Oakland in so many ways. It speaks to the tension caused by a shortage of housing, the passion that residents have for their growing city and the challenges facing the city. It’s among the first housing developments during Mayor Schaaf's tenure, and it won’t be her last difficult housing decision.

You can follow Devin's work on KQED 88.5 FM and read his stories online.