Ben Trefny

News Director

Ben handles daily operations in the news department, overseeing the editorial and sound engineering teams, producing the nightly news and culture show Crosscurrents, and managing the KALW Audio Academy training program. He earned a Masters degree in journalism from the University of Oregon in 2000 and got his start in public radio at NPR member station KLCC in Eugene. After freelancing for numerous magazines and working for various commercial and public radio programs, Ben joined KALW in 2004. He has helped the department win numerous regional and national awards for long- and short-form journalism. He has also helped train dozens of radio producers, many of whom work with him at KALW, today. Ben lives with his wife and twin children in San Francisco's Outer Sunset district, where Golden Gate Park meets Ocean Beach, and spends as much time as he can outside.

Ways To Connect

No training for in-home caregivers

Aug 26, 2015
Heidi de Marco/KHN

Born just a year apart, Oliver Massengale and his brother Charles grew up together. Now, in a two-story home in Compton, California, they are growing old together. But Charles Massengale, 71, can do little on his own.

The former tree trimmer has severe brain damage from a 30-foot fall, as well as dementia, diabetes and high blood pressure. Six years ago, Oliver took over as his brother’s full-time caregiver, paid about $10 an hour by the state.

It was not a job he was trained to do.

Christian Peacock / Forbes

In just over two decades, Academy of Art University in San Francisco has been transformed under President Elisa Stephens. It has expanded from just over 2,000 students to 16,000. Its revenues have also grown from around eight million dollars a year to about $300 million.

Some live performances are poetic -- and some aren’t. Imagine the most embarrassing moment of your life. (Really, the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to you.) Now imagine standing on a stage in front of hundreds of strangers and telling them in detail about that time. That’s the concept behind "Mortified."

It’s a kind of tell-all performance art taking place in clubs across the U.S., where real people volunteer – in fact, they compete, and actually audition – to read from their personal, private childhood diaries. KALW's Ben Trefny stopped spoke with "Mortified"'s Bay Area producer, Scott Lifton, at the Make Out Room in San Francisco.

 

Flickr/Kenneth Lu

When the eastern span of the Bay Bridge was built, it was designed to be awe-inspiring. A shining tower rising high above the water, suspending one of the nation’s most significant thoroughfares.

It does all that, but massive cost overruns and continuing structural problems have many people deeply concerned about whether building such an innovative bridge was a good idea.

One of those people is Jaxon Van Derbeken, an investigative journalist with the San Francisco Chronicle. He sat down to talk with KALW’s Ben Trefny.

San Francisco is considered a national leader in pro-environmental policy, advocacy, and education. And while the City is a pioneer in recycling it may be getting tougher on street recyclers who scavenge from blue bins throughout the city.

Street recycling is a growing underground economy. And it is illegal. In 2012, Supervisor Christina Olague requested a hearing looking into how much money the City was losing because of scavengers, as well as ways to prevent the practice. Ben Trefny had the story.

This story by originally aired on March 29, 2012.

The KALW public radio news department is hiring a part-time digital strategist. This is a position for an independent contractor.

Dutch Treat Imaging Atelier

For the person accustomed to playing a factory model, a guitar from the hand of a skilled luthier is always a revelation. The tone, action, craftsmanship, and finish make playing such an instrument a unique pleasure.

Irving Sloane – Classic Guitar Construction

It used to be that if you wanted to learn how to make a guitar, you had to apprentice with a luthier. You’d find them in Europe, and you had almost no other option. That is, until New Yorker Irving Sloane wrote the book on high-end construction: Classic Guitar Construction: Diagrams, Photographs, and Step-By-Step Instructions.

Candlestick memory: Caroline Hickson

May 15, 2015
From Flickr user Kimberly Brown-Azzarello.

As a child in the 60’s, Caroline Hickson rode the bus with a friend all the way to Candlestick Park to watch Giants baseball games.

Eleven percent of Bay Area residents live with a disability. That includes developmental disabilities like autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome. Society makes accommodations for people with these conditions when they're young and in school, like mandated special needs education. But once they’ve aged out, life can become even more challenging. And in the U.S., history has not been kind.

When you think of a farmer, you may picture an old curmudgeon in overalls and straw hat squinting out at a bucolic pasture, chewing a piece of grass as he slaps wildly at flying pests. Well, that was the old breed of farmer.
Novella Carpenter is one of the new breed, and she's raising her rabbits, chickens, and goats right in the middle of Oakland. She blogs about it at Ghost Town Farm, and she just published a book: "Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer." KALW's Ben Trefny sat down with Novella Carpenter to ask her how exactly it all works.

Courtesy of www.josefa.com.

In 1983, after the U.S. Navy left San Francisco's Hunters Point Shipyard, a collective of artists moved into the abandoned buildings. Since then, the group has grown and grown until today, when more than 250 artists ply their trade in the former repair station. It is now America's largest artists' community.

Lacy Atkins // San Francisco Chronicle

Residents at the Hacienda Housing Complex in Richmond are finally able to relocate from the mold and rodent filled public housing units they’ve lived in for years. In a press conference held earlier this year, Richmond Mayor Tom Butts announced that the residents will receive federally funded vouchers to move into private housing while Hacienda goes through renovations. Hacienda is one of the most poorly maintained public housing complexes in a city with one of the worst housing agencies in the country.

www.helpmyseo.com

Since its launch in 1998, Google has evolved from simple searches to near total internet domination. It owns the video-sharing site youtube; it launched its own Siri-like voice recognition app, Ok Google; and though the company has put development of it’s controversial Google Glass on hold, sources say that’s because it’s working on a more advanced product – Google Brain. I sat down with Alexis Channing-Sorkle, the first recipient of the still-in-beta product, to pick – or search – her brain. 

Some small businesses owners have warned that raising the minimum wage could shut them down, but Farley’s East owner Chris Hillyard says he’s willing to make the transition. He sat down with KALW’s Ben Trefny.

Chris Hillyard: So youre gonna have to pay a little bit more, but it’s for a better Oakland.

Click the audio player above to listen to the full story.

 

Dave Getzschman

Jennifer Piallat has worked in most every aspect of the restaurant industry – dishwasher, waitstaff, chef, manager – and those experiences have informed her decisions as owner of Zazie, a popular bistro in San Francisco's Cole Valley. Her employees receive a living wage, and benefits, and she's testified about her philosophies and process before the U.S. Department of Labor.

Jack Alley for The New York Times

Sharing economy companies like Uber and Lyft have become a powerful part of the economy. Now, some of the workers propelling that sector are organizing to ask for more from the companies that pay them. Drivers from both companies have filed a lawsuit -- they want to be made employees rather than contractors, and receive the benefits mandated by the state of California.

While it can be difficult for some San Francisco residents to find healthy food in their own neighborhood, you might be surprised to learn that the very people who pick our produce also have trouble finding healthy food to eat. Anthropologist and physician Seth Holmes spent five years in the fields living in labor camps, picking fruit, and crossing the border with migrant workers in order to learn more about what challenges they face. He documented his experiences in his book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies to get a better insight into our food and health care system. 

Paul Brekke-Miesner

The Bay Area was well represented in Super Bowl XLIX. The MVP, Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady, is from San Mateo. His favorite target, Julian Edelmen, is from Redwood City. And the man who could have won the game for the Seahawks, running back Marshawn Lynch, went to high school at Oakland Tech. In fact, Oakland has an especially rich history of athletes making it to the pros.

Every year, my wife and I have an extended date night around the anniversary of our first kiss. Usually, we do something simple, like watch a movie or two. Or, last weekend, about a dozen.

It's no big deal, really. Not when there's a neatly packaged collection of Oscar nominated short films in the theaters.

Under CC license from Flickr user Charlie Nguyen.

The University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism is one of the most prestigious in the country. It’s not cheap: it costs more than $15,000 per year for California residents and twice that for out-of-state students. And last month, the Board of Regents made it even more expensive, charging an extra $7,500 per year. 

Under CC license from Flickr user Master OSM 2011

KALW's Ben Trefny talks with UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Dean Ed Wasserman about how social media and the page views are impacting newsrooms.

ED WASSERMAN: There was a lot of talk about citizen journalists, and the like, but this is really more about citizen editors. And in many respects, that editorial function is a far more powerful and a far more influential one than the actual reporting.

Click the audio player above to listen to the complete interview.

Under CC license from Flickr user Thierry Chervel.

KALW's Ben Trefny talks with UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Dean Ed Wasserman about how terrorist attacks on media, the use of satire, and free speech.

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee is backing a proposal to build a second BART tunnel to connect with the East Bay. According to documents released after his State of the City address, last week, he plans to begin a conversation with other mayors and the BART Board.

Protesters blocked an intersection at 42nd and International in Oakland over the weekend. Some gathered outside new mayor Libby Schaaf's house to wake her up with a "people's inauguration" this morning. Demonstrations calling attention to racism and inequality that continue around the Bay Area have resonant meaning today. They carry the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s calls for justice half-a-century ago.

East Bay Express

East Bay Express Editor Robert Gammon stopped by KALW's studios last week, and shared his thoughts about bias in the media, and controversy in Oakland's City Council.  

In this web exclusive segment, Gammon shares his thoughts about the threats journalists face in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the world. 

East Bay Express Editor Robert Gammon recently wrote an article about the question of bias in media. The Express doesn’t shy away from controversy, recently publishing an investigation of ethical and legal violations by new Oakland City Council board president Lynnette Gibson McElhaney. 

East Bay Express Editor Robert Gammon recently wrote an article about the question of bias in media. I invited Gammon to our studios to share his thoughts on this recent report, as part of our ongoing series, “State of the Media.”

 

Libby Schaaf was sworn in as Oakland's new leader on January 5th, 2015. After she won decisively in the November election, we wanted to learn more about the former city councilwoman. She came into the KALW studios to talk about everything from leadership style, balancing family life with running a city, and what makes Oakland unique. 

How the biggest storm in years affected the Bay

Dec 11, 2014
Ben Trefny


Today’s storm disrupted lives up and down the Bay Area, knocking down trees, flooding roadways, and cutting power to tens of thousands of people.

Dan Lurie

The Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California Chapter sent a letter to Berkeley officials today condemning the actions of police officers who allegedly used batons to beat photojournalists. We contacted Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and asked him about his perspective on what happened in the streets of Berkeley over the weekend.

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