Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Stefan Norgaard: First Day at NPR

This is the first part of a series of posts from Stefan Norgaard, Stanford University Urban Studies major completing his Internship Capstone sequence interning for NPR’s Forum program at KQED, the San Francisco station.

I couldn’t stop laughing.  It was my first day of work at National Public Radio (NPR-KQED) in San Francisco, where I am an intern with the “Forum” program.  I was editing audio clips from Kaumau Bell’s FX show “Totally Biased.”  Bell was slated to be Monday’s guest on KQED’s “Forum Program,” and our interview sought to highlight the important social messages in Bell’s hilarious comedy shows.  So I pulled sound bites from Bell’s “Stop and Frisk” show, commenting on the all-too-common actions by the NYPD and other police departments in urban areas.  Bell interviews residents on the streets of Harlem, asking why they are frisked so frequently, and why white people never seem to get frisked by the NYPD.  Bell soon asks Harlem residents whether they would mind the frisking so much “if it was ladies cops [would they mind] if they could search me everyday?”  Bell mixes humor with important arguments about racism and classism directed towards the urban underclass that remains alive and well.  In Bell’s show “The Most Racist Things of All Time,” he highlights similar social issues in a hilarious and comic way.  Both shows can be viewed at the following links:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v42WLN_4Scw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5h2cB5Jzv8.

    As my Urban Studies capstone internship, the KQED position enables me to apply the academic coursework I learned in Urban Studies and disseminate that information to a large public audience.  KQED is the “most listened to” public radio station in the country, and Forum shows like Monday’s with Tatum Bell, which highlight issues of racial discrimination against the urban underclass, shed light on the difficulties of life for urban minorities.  More importantly, the humorous nature of the show allows everyone to laugh before tackling such a divisive issue.

    Though it was only my first day working at KQED, other important issues relating to my Urban Studies coursework most certainly came into play.  For our show on recycling and sustainable living, for instance, I met and talked with Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA Administrator for Region 9, the Pacific Southwest Region.  I helped prepare Mr. Blumenfeld for his upcoming Forum interview, and we were able to discuss the importance of good urbanism and smart growth in the meantime.  A man who truly practices what he preaches, Blumenfeld had biked to the station, and made sure to tell me exactly what was recyclable and what was not.

    Once Blumenfeld was on the air (he was the guest on a Forum show titled “How to Get to Zero Waste”), I fielded emails, tweets, and other comments from listeners across the Bay Area.  “Forum” is a truly interactive show, and many listeners were curious about everything from how to recycle daily items to ways Waste Management can help incentivize recycling for communities like Oakland.  I screened the comments, deciding which ones were most relevant for the radio conversation, and passed on appropriate comments to the producer for final review.  Though only a few of the nearly 80 calls, emails, tweets, and comments were able to make it to the air, I enjoyed hearing and seeing all of the public discussion on “How to Get to Zero Waste.”  I am truly fortunate to work for National Public Radio on the “Forum” show, where everyone’s individual perspectives can add to and shape the news.

–Stefan Norgaard


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