Many Thanks

There are so many things I have not had the time to mention here (hello Historian Laureate adventures!), but I am too blissed out not to share this news:

My latest show at CJSR – All That Matters – just won a national award and a listener-voted award back in Edmonton!

Corine Demas, Marie Fontaine and I accepting CJSR's Best News Show award for 2016.
Corine Demas, Marie Fontaine and I from the All That Matters team accepting CJSR’s Best News Show award for 2016.

It’s been a really fun and creatively challenging show to make since it launched in January 2015. It’s an Alberta-focused arts and culture show. The idea is that with each episode, we try to take small bites out of a big question. We’ve put together stories about big ideas like whether anything we make is permanent, what “good behaviour” means, what the Art Gallery of Alberta could do to turn its attendance around, and what makes a diva (one of my favourite episodes).

ncra award
Our NCRA award for Special Programming.

In June, we won a Special Programming award from the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA) for a 2-part documentary we made called Boot Camp Poets. It was really exciting to get to be in Ottawa to receive it in person. And a big surprise!

In Boot Camp Poets, we told the stories of 8 men who were part of a group sharing their poetry and rap with each other while serving as inmates at the Edmonton Remand Centre. We used the two parts of the documentary to share their songs, stories, and poems, and offer context for the issues they faced. We interviewed someone from the John Howard Society who helps men transition back into regular life after jail, and we spoke to The Inside Circle author Patti Laboucane-Benson about why Indigenous people are so over-represented in Canada’s prison system.

This was one of the most challenging radio projects I’ve worked on so far. It was definitely nerve-wracking getting up the courage to go into the Remand Centre for the first time with my two collaborators on the doc, Sara Khembo Alfazema and Joe Hartfeil. It took a lot of guts for those men to share their stories with us too.

Here are the two parts, in case you want to have a listen:

And we were very touched to win the CJSR award for Best News Show this year at the annual CJSR volunteer awards. This is a listener-voted award, so it means a huge amount to know people out there have been loving the show as much as we’ve loved making it.

Community radio is such an important platform to share under-represented stories, and nurture talent. Hanging out with radio folks from across Canada (like these lovely dweebs below from CJSR, CJSW in Calgary and CKXU in Lethbridge) reminded me how innovative and talented this sector is. These awards are a nice bonus for the privilege of being in that world.

alberta radio peeps

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Radio Geeks Wanted

A group of radio hoodlums hug around a sign with the fundraising total from their FunDrive show. No windows are present, because CJSR is forever cursed to live in the basement.
The Terra Informa team from our CJSR FunDrive show in 2013.

I’m about to take a big move. After two years working at the Alberta Council for Global Cooperation, I’ve decided to take a leap into a job in radio. This month I will become the News Coordinator at CJSR 88.5 FM, the Edmonton community radio station where I’ve been working on Terra Informa.

I love my team at Terra Informa. It embodies many of the best things I like about storytelling and volunteering. Our team is willing to take risks, like traipsing around in the snow and rattling the fence outside a planetarium after dark to narrate a whole episode about night. Everybody genuinely cares about each other, and recording together always feels like friends sitting down to have a good conversation. Now I’m going to be managing the current and new rosters of volunteer contributors for all of CJSR’s Spoken Word shows, from our queer community anchor GayWire to University of Alberta partnerships like The Gateway Presents.

I’m really excited to have the opportunity to work with CJSR’s impressive base of volunteers and community supporters and build on our legacy of independent, award-winning spoken word programming that challenges the status quo. My predecessor Matt Hirji has a gigantic mural of Ira Glass on his wall, good-naturedly watching out, eyes clearly curious and hungry as all get out. Ira will be hovering over me too on my new journey. Wish me luck.

A Family and a Wild Sage-grouse

On the advice of my mentor, I am sharing more small updates about what I’m working on. In the past couple of weeks, my thoughts and stories have been with a remarkably caring family on the streets, and with a bird desperately in need of friends in Alberta.

My story for the CJSR Homelessness Marathon was quite a challenge to put together. I can’t remember ever before spending a whole afternoon recording hours of tape, then whittling it down to a 20-minute mini-doc for radio. In this case, we had many months of time to prepare for the national marathon of community radio programming about homelessness in Canada. I used some of that time to get to know the people on the Boyle Street Community Services winter outreach van, which roams all over the city offering people a chance to warm up, get some hot food and supplies, and share the company of people who care about them. I discovered that it isn’t just people on the streets who benefit from this van’s work, though. Together with the staff, they make a caring family that feels it deeply when one of their own is lost:

This week on Terra Informa, my friend Danielle Dolgoy and I chased down a story about one of Alberta’s most threatened species. University of Alberta researcher Mark Boyce estimates that over the past few decades, the number of greater sage-grouse in the province has dipped from the thousands to a few dozen. There are so many reasons this is happening – oil and gas development, farming pressures, hawk predation… millions of reasons why the federal government sat on the sidelines for so long before issuing a special protection order under the Species At Risk Act to dramatically protect the bird. We were curious to know what finally motivated some of the parties involved to see what’s in it for them to protect the greater sage-grouse:

I’m headed to Iceland soon, and will be back near the end of March with some good stories about the archetypal land of Ice and Fire.