The last Census cites Gunnison County, CO as 96% White, but this rural and remote area has changed. KBUT Community Radio has partnered with the Crested Butte News and Gunnison Country Times to explore the issues, impacts and history of immigration in the Gunnison Valley. Local immigrants as citizen journalists are recording personal diaries, interviews and blogs. Stories will broadcast on KBUT and kbut.org will have an audio archive and additional content including listener/user feedback. KBUT will share MP3 files of the broadcast pieces with Colorado’s 12 other community radio stations.
The last quarter of 2008 was a productive period for KBUT’s immigrant journalism project, despite turnover among the immigrant journalists and the radio station staff.
Since the last KBUT quarterly report in November 2008, three of the then-five immigrant participants dropped out to return to their native Mexico. The two that remained - Clara Valdes from Oaxaca, Mexico, and Marketa Zubkova from the Czech Republic - have been joined by Alejandra Gonzalez from Mexico City and Miguel Mansilla from Lima, Peru.
Kim Carroll Bosler, the project leader, recently left the station to take a job elsewhere. Staff producer Chad Reich succeeds her as project leader.
The radio station’s homepage at www.kbut.org includes information about the immigrant journalism project, including photos and biographies of the journalists, photos of the training sessions and archived audio. In one piece, Clara Valdes stops to interview a man on the street whom she overheard speaking Spanish while he shoveled snow. A mechanical engineer, Hugo Cisneros worked for Hewlett-Packard in Guadalajara, Mexico, for almost 20 years until his job was outsourced to Malaysia last summer. Seeking employment, he moved to a Colorado ski town that he had visited in better times. In fluent, nearly unaccented American English, Cisneros describes - without rancor - how he does building maintenance and shovels snow to make money to send home to his wife and two children. (He has since returned to Mexico after developing carpal tunnel syndrome, Bosler says.)
Asked what drew her to the KBUT program, Valdes says: “I am an immigrant and I meet many other immigrants [in her thrift store]. It’s very hard for us to have American friends. We go to work; we go home. We are ghosts. We are tools. We have no voice. I want the community to know my story - our stories.”
Bosler reports that the project’s four immigrant journalists took part in a daylong workshop at the KBUT studios. Also, six newspaper reporters from the local Gunnison Country Times and the Crested Butte News participated in a two-day workshop designed to shift their reporting skills from print to broadcast.
Both training sessions covered writing for the ear, using sound to tell a story, field production and reading on-air. Independent radio producer Adam Burke, a frequent contributor to National Public Radio, led both workshops. Burke’s intensive classes also included equipment training, audio examples of citizen journalists’ radio diaries and tips on how to gather sound and conduct successful interviews. Bosler reports that the newly trained print-to-radio journalists created content specific to the project and provided information for KBUT’s newsletter (www.kbut.org/media/pdfs/Red%20Newsletter%20Win%2008-09.pdf).
Burke’s work with the newspaper journalists paid off, Bosler says. “The daily news modules the reporters are submitting to the station have been much improved since the workshops,” she writes. “[The reporters] are no longer simply narrating a story that they wrote for the paper. Sound is increasingly driving the story, actualities are replacing quotes and the writing is crisp, efficient and focused in the present.”
While the new radio journalists’ material is available online, project leader Reich plans to edit and package the audio into a special series, the first installment of which is to air in summer 2009. It, and all future series, also will be archived online.
In addition, Reich hopes to amass material for short segments that could air on a regular basis.
- Hope Keller, 3/13/09
Opening the Door to Non-Citizen Journalists
Clara Valdes of Oaxaca, Mexico moved to Crested Butte, Colo. in order to provide her children with an American quality education. She did that. Her oldest daughter graduated from high school. Valdes is a hard-working woman; she runs a home-based day care and a thrift store. She’s also a community activist. Valdes pushed the local town council to donate a kitchen in a public building so that immigrants make and sell their native foods. Her next big thing? She’s going to be a citizen reporter for KBUT-FM’s New Voices project, “Immigration: The View From Here.”
“She does more before noon than most people do in an entire day,” said Kim Carroll Bosler, the project leader. “She’s activist-oriented; for her to have a chance to tell her story and have a voice is a motivator.”
KBUT has partnered with the Gunnison County Multicultural Resource Center to identify potential participants and contributors from the immigrant community. The center hosted the first meeting where about a dozen (mostly Mexican) men and women attended. “The response from the immigrants was very positive and enthusiastic,” said Bosler. “Four people have signed on to the project.”
“People want a chance to say, ‘We are coming here to work hard and take care of our families. We want the same things you do,’ ” said Bosler.
KBUT has struggled with the question of how to compensate its citizen journalists who may not be citizens at all. Instead of cutting checks, the station has decided to provide gift cards for local supermarkets and Wal-Mart.
Immigration: The View From Here also represents an historic collaboration between the three main media outlets in Gunnison County: the radio station, the Gunnison Country Times and the Crested Butte News. KBUT has committed six journalists to creating content for the project and each newspaper has offered three. “We’ve had the partnership with the two local newspaper for a year now, but this is the first time content is being pushed by KBUT,” said Bosler.
KBUT has hired an independent producer to provide training workshops in October and November. Print reporters will learn how to use recording equipment, write for the ear, use sound to tell a story, read copy on air, incorporate sound clips. Immigrant journalists will also learn how to use equipment, interviewing tips and the basics of blogging.
So far, the project has been challenged by staff turnover at both KBUT and one of the newspapers. As a result, the timeline has adjusted to meet the new reality. “We had hoped to use our local immigration stories to frame the national debate about immigration in time for the November 2008 election. We won’t be ready,” said Bosler. “We’ve realized that for this project, creating content starts with building relationships,” and that takes time.
New Voices is an initiative of J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism. J-LabTM is an incubator for innovative, participatory news experiments and is a center of American University's School of Communication in Washington, D.C. New Voices is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.