Bay Curious Turns 3! Come Behind the Scenes

12 min
The Bay Curious podcast turns three and we are celebrating! (RuthBlack/iStock)

This transcript is lightly edited for clarity.

Olivia Allen-Price: Three years ago, during the first week of November in 2016, it was an extremely stressful time for most people in this country. The presidential candidates were making their final pitches to the American public. But in a conference room in the KQED offices in San Francisco, the Bay Curious team was largely focused on something else entirely.

We were barreling toward the launch of this very podcast, trying to get all the last minute things just right. Was the logo ready? Was the website up? What's our theme music?

And then on Nov. 4, after a few technical glitches, Bay Curious was born.

Given the news of the week, it ended up being a kind of odd time to launch a podcast like ours. But hey, we survived and here we are three years later.

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Theme Music Begins

Today, we're celebrating our anniversary by answering some questions you've sent in over the years about the show. Reporter Jessica Placzek and I will revisit some of our favorite episodes, answer your questions about how we make the show and share how things have changed since we started. I'm Olivia Allen-Price and this is Bay Curious.

Theme Music Ends

OAP: All right, so Nov. 4 is the day we're recording this, and that is our launch day.

Jessica Placzek: Here we are!

OAP: So happy anniversary!

JP: Happy anniversary!

OAP: Jessica Placzek and I are here to take your questions that you've sent in over the years. Let's just dive into the first one, what do you say?

JP: OK.

OAP: Alright. So this is actually a question that I get all the time, probably the most common question people will ask, and that is: “What's your favorite episode?”

JP: That's a really tough one because we've done so many shows at this point. But on the one I want to talk about today is all about Frisco, whether or not we can use that nickname, because it gets a lot of hate. And people are like, oh, that shows that you're not from here if you use Frisco. That's something I heard when I first arrived.

And I thought that this episode by Vinnie Tong did a really good job of showing how that question is kind of a little bit classist.

OAP: Let's hear it.

VT: Pratt said, when you want to talk about language and word choice like nicknames, you're virtually always talking about money and power.

Teresa Pratt: Institutions that have power, people that have power haven't have an interest in maintaining that the way that they speak is the right.

JP: Pretty much ever since we started using Frisco, people started hating it. And this goes back to Emperor Norton. And then you can also see it with Herb Caen and that famous cultural critic who even wrote an entire book called ‘Don't Call It Frisco.’

VT: Herb Caen, the arbiter of taste, eventually flip flopped on Frisco a couple times in the 90's. We've built our anti-Frisco bias on some shaky ground.

OAP: I love this one, too. I think for the same reason, like, it really changed my thinking about that word and moved it from something that I, you know, was kind of conditioned never to say as soon as I got here. And now it's something that, you know, if it slips out, it slips out.

JP: So what's your favorite, Olivia?

OAP: My favorite? Well, I have two favorites, but the one that I want to talk about today is actually one that you reported. It was also an early episode. The question came from a 7-year-old, I believe. So the question was, what would it take to make Lake Merritt swimmable? So let's play the little piece of it that I was attracted to.

JP: So if we're going to make Lake Merritt swimmable, it has to work for wildlife too. Enter Dr. Alex Horne, professor emeritus of ecological engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. I met Alex at Lake Merritt and he showed up with a guitar and sang me the third option.

AH: I will build me a wetland, constructed on land. I'll fill it with cat tails, bullrush all around, to take out the nitrate in drainage that’s found.

OAP: I love that. I think we've had some amazing sources over the years. But as far as I know, that's the only guy who brought a guitar to give us the answer.

JP: That was amazing. I remember recording that and I had to make sure to stifle my squeals for how excited I was that he sang me an answer.

OAP: Yeah, that was amazing.

JP: So this next question comes from Brian Feetham who asked: Who wrote our theme song?

OAP: Our theme song was done by Pat Mesiti-Miller. He's a sound designer and musician based in Oakland. And he works on two rather famous and beautiful podcasts, Snap Judgment and Ear Hustle. Both wonderful. I recommend them. And you can really kind of hear the sound and musical expertise in both of those podcasts. When we were first working with Pat, he gave us a couple different options. So I still have one of the original theme songs that we were considering, which I don't think you've heard.

JP: No, I don't think I've ever heard that.

OAP: Here we go.

Music Plays

JP: Feels kind of like you're in a jazz bar and it’s raining outside and you're just a cool cat.

Music out

OAP: Yeah, it would have really changed I think the whole feeling of the show if that was our song. Totally different vibe. I love our theme music now. You know, we use it pretty much in every episode. And as it approaches, it kind of goes ssssBOOM.

Theme Music Plays

OAP: That first beat. There's just something in my gut that kind of says, yeah.

JP: Cool

OAP: Feels good. So thanks, Pat, for the theme music.

Theme Music Out

OAP: All right. Moving on. This is another question that I get a lot: How many questions do you have?

JP: A lot, you guys. We have a lot. So currently (I haven't checked in the last 30 minutes) but we have over 4,086 questions. Which is a lot. And so we can't answer them all, but we really appreciate that you're asking. So don't stop asking.

OAP: And I will also say that a lot of times we will answer a question months, even years, after you've asked it. So if you asked something and you think it was a good question, don't give up hope. We might still reach out.

JP: I think it was last week or the week before I reached out to someone who asked a question three years ago.

OAP: Yeah, it happens, so don't give up.

JP: Next up, we have Naveen Kassamali asking: How do we decide what questions we answer in each episode?

OAP: I think that there's really two main ways that we do it. First off, there's a voting round that's active all the time. You can go to BayCurious.org and see it. Every month we change it out. You can cast your vote and the one that wins is the one that we go ahead and start reporting on.

OAP: The second way is through an editor's choice process. We're constantly looking for questions that are unique, questions that are universally appealing, questions about diverse, different topics. So that covers science or politics or history. And of course, we're looking for something that can fill, you know, eight to 10 minutes of a podcast episode. I think a lot of the reason we end up not doing a question that someone asks is because there's just not enough there there to, like, really tell you about it for eight or 10 minutes. It's not interesting enough for that long.

JP: Oftentimes we'll be like, this is a really good question that our audience will care about. So why don't we put it in our newsletter and you guys should subscribe to it. It's at BayCurious.org/newsletter. Check it out.

OAP: Yeah. So let's move on to our next question.

Erika: My name is Erika and I live in Hayward. My question is, "What question hasn't been asked yet that you are waiting for someone to ask?"

JP: A reporter came to us recently asking to do a story on the Port Chicago Disaster, which was in Contra Costa County. It was this explosion killing hundreds of sailors in 1944. Most of them African-American. And that explosion really highlighted some inequity in the Navy. And some say that led to change and integration of the Navy. So I think that's really fascinating. What about you, Olivia?

OAP: I've been really interested recently in the Panama Canal. I've gone deep on some documentaries. So I'm really fascinated in sort of how the Panama Canal impacted California, how the presence of California helped to bring about the Panama Canal. And just like all the different ways that this very vital stretch of waterway has completely shaped shipping in the modern day. So, yeah, I'd love to do one on the Panama Canal.

OAP: So let's move on to one of our last questions. And this is actually one that I am asking because I'm curious what you're going to say, Jessica. How do you think that the show has changed since we started three years ago?

JP: So in digging back in the archives, the most obvious one is that we used to use a lot more music. It seemed almost like we were afraid to just have plain talking. So that's a big change.

OAP: I think for me one of the biggest changes has been how I think about the show. So it used to kind of just be like, oh, we're here to answer people's questions. But now more and more, as we're, you know, putting together events, building a newsletter, trying to interact more on social media, we're really trying to think about how we can help people to, like, better connect to this place that we are all living in and sharing and connect more to each other. So, yeah, I think that's for me, like kind of the biggest change,

JP: That’s really sweet one. I like that.

OAP: That's all we've got time for today. But if you have other questions about the show, you can ask us anytime. I'm on Twitter, I'm @oallenprice.

JP: And I'm on Twitter @jessicazyp, although I don't really check it.

OAP: But you will this week.

JP: But I will this week.

OAP: Also, you can come celebrate with us. We're having an anniversary happy hour on Nov. 14 from 6 to 8 p.m. It's at Babe's Monte Carlo in San Francisco. It's a new bar and it has this pretty cool feature. One of the walls is the original Yerba Buena seawall. So that'll be really cool to see. We'll be standing right next to history as we raise our glass in cheers. It is a free event and you can register Baycurious.org/events

JP: Come out!

OAP: Lastly, let's roll some credits. There are a lot of people who have had their hands on a show over the years and they don't always get announced at the end of our show, including Vinnee Tong, Ryan Levi, Suzie Racho, Julie Caine, Erika Kelly, Paul Lancour, Kelly O’Mara, Carly Severn...

JP: Katie McMurran, Rob Speight, Pat Yollin, Maggie Galloway, Holly Kernan, Ethan Lindsay, Julia McEvoy... and oh hey, us, Jessica Placzek..

OAP: and Olivia Allen-Price.

OAP: Well, that's all we got for today. Should we play some of that theme music?

JP: Boop, boop,

JP/OAP: boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop boop.

JP: I don't know if you guys can hear, but I have no tonal sense.

Theme Plays

JP/OAP: Bay Curious made in San Francisco at KQED

Theme Out

JP: Bye

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