Interview: Ethan Lindsey

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 7 years old.

This summer Ethan Lindsey (@ethan_lindsey) returned to his native West Coast to join KQED in the newly created position of managing editor for news. Before his arrival, he told us, “I’m most excited about the mandate to help KQED explore new outlets for its journalism, as well as deepening its digital, video and data coverage.” He spoke more about his role after about a month on the job.

Tell me a bit about your path here and what your job entails.
Most recently I was the senior managing editor for Here and Now at WBUR in Boston. Prior to that, I worked at Marketplace, the business show, in a number of roles including as the interim managing editor and the senior digital editor.

Any managing editor is going to be involved and interested in how stories are crafted, but since KQED has such strong senior editors and editorial leadership, my role, as it is evolving, is more about making sure the reporters and editors and the whole staff know how we’re covering stories, why we’re covering them and how we’re refining our workflow.

KQED News has moved from beat-focused reporting (“You cover the courts, you cover this specific neighborhood”) to a hub system. The idea is that you put reporters and editors in a pod — we have pods covering justice, community, health and equity and more — and they decide how to cover a story and how deeply to cover it. So when something happens like the Oakland Police scandal, we can cover it from various angles that uniquely inform our listeners and readers.


When I accepted this job, I didn’t realize how big KQED’s audience is relative to other public radio stations and how stations around the country look to KQED to be a leader. It’s exciting to get to be part of that leadership!

How do you see radio vis-à-vis other forms of media?
Radio is actually well positioned in the “attention economy,” where you only have 24 hours total, minus sleep, to actually do stuff. We can double up — multitask. You can play Angry Birds and still listen to the news. You can play Pokémon Go and still listen to the news. Whereas if you’re reading the newspaper, you’re reading the newspaper. If you’re watching TV, it’s hard to do different things. I think that in a world of augmented reality and virtual reality and self-driving cars, radio is probably better positioned than almost any
other medium.

What’s exciting you about the coming year of coverage?  
Honestly, there’s just too much! For the election we’re launching an online Voter Guide to allow users to dig deep on the state ballot propositions and all sorts of other issues — and it’s built to look great on your cell phone.

Then we’ll be creating a host of new podcasts that will help to feed our audience’s curiosity and their desire to hear the best stories from around the region.

And next year we’ll be working with other public radio stations in the state to look at whether the California Dream still exists (I’m pretty sure it does … it just looks a lot different!). We’ll also be developing partnerships with media and tech companies to find new and better ways to get our stories into the minds and hearts of people in this state and region.

On a more personal note, do you have a guilty pleasure?
I am a rabid Cal football fan. I’ve flown back to the states from Germany and from Hong Kong for big games. But I don’t feel guilty about that!

I’m trying to think what about what my wife, my family, would be embarrassed about. The KQED newsroom has already learned that I’m loud. If I get excited, I will let people know. My son has started to take after me, and I have to say, “No. Use an inside voice!”

In a newsroom, in the heat of the moment, you can be loud. It’s a good place for me because I can be abnormally loud and not be completely criticized for it, whereas I probably would be in much quieter workplaces.

You could not be a librarian.
No. I could not be a librarian.