This is the third 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.
When I was in middle school, my old 1987 Toyota Tercel did not have FM radio. My dad and I would drive to school each morning, forced to listen to boring talk shows with long commercials. Then we found NPR. I was instantly a fan. The commercial-free commentary on important political and social issues facing the US and the world was invaluable for my education, and the experience made me cherish those early morning car rides to school. Moreover, I soon noticed my academic interests developing, and my intellectual engagement improving. As I listened to NPR more and more frequently, I took in the information like a sponge. I was well-versed in current events and political happenings, and I knew that I wanted to be involved in politics or public policy in the future. NPR, quite literally, set me on my academic path back in those early middle school days.
Now I am literally living my dream. Once a week, I travel to San Francisco and work at KQED, the largest and most-listened to public radio station affiliate of NPR in the country. The opportunity means so much for me because NPR as an organization has given me so much already. I work on a show called “Forum,” which aims to create a conversation among citizens centered around local-level public affairs and civic issues.
I had never thought of going into journalism, but one aspect of my work with KQED that I particularly enjoy is the fast-paced, multi-faceted nature of the work. For example, we had shows planned on Mayor Kevin Johnson and the Sacramento Kings basketball team, but all of our work and efforts were to no avail: just 24 hours before the show was to air, the tragic Boston Marathon Bombings occurred, and “Forum” aired a show discussing the tragedy and what it means for Bay Area residents. The nature of my work is also faced-paced. Oftentimes I have just 2-3 minutes to pass along crucial documents that will promptly be read on the air. In other situations, I need to get the show’s guests ready and prepped for the show while also printing out important documents for the host. The work keeps me fluid, living. I work on longer research-based projects (for example, helping to decide future show topics, pre-interviewing guests, and writing background documents) but I also do work in the moment, that is important because it will be needed in a mere five minutes.
How does my work at NPR-KQED relate to my future plans, hopes, and aspirations? As an Urban Studies student, one thing that I have learned is that whatever I decide to do, harnessing and advancing social change and social change movements will be at the center of what I do. At “Forum,” we can reach a wide audience by broadcasting through the radio, and the dissemination of objective, good-quality information plants seeds for social change among our listeners. I want a career that does just this – allows myself to be a motivator for others who want to make change in their own communities.