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

Paul Kleyman

More than one in ten people living in the densely packed Tenderloin and mid-Market neighborhoods are age 65 or older, and that percentage is expected to grow significantly in the next decade.

Ben Trefny

The sharing economy in San Francisco is humming. Companies like Airbnb have figured out how to make a lot of money by using existing housing stock to meet consumer demand, which in Airbnb’s case is coming from tourists. Fast Company magazine declared AirBnB will soon become “the world’s largest hotel chain – without owning a single hotel.”

KALW's Ashleyanne Krigbaum

Groups like Open Oakland and Code for America want to help improve digital efficiency in the city, and now, a new government office is joining that effort. This past January, Bryan Sastokas became Oakland’s first Chief Information Officer (CIO). He has held the role in two cities previously, most recently Modesto. He oversees all things tech in city government, and it is his job to figure out how technology can solve communication breakdowns between residents and City Hall, or within the network of city departments. 

Ben Trefny

Big wave surfer Grant "Twiggy" Baker talks about San Francisco's Ocean Beach, his thought process in taking on the world's biggest waves, and life after competitive surfing in this interview with KALW's Ben Trefny.

Courtesty of the Pacific Institute

As California faces an extreme drought, water politics are under a microscope now more than ever. Oakland-based Pacific Institute is a leader in research on the impacts of climate change on water. Its director, Peter Gleick, was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship for his work on water resources.

Even though 38 million Californians cook, clean and bathe with water, the Central Valley is still the largest user by far, taking up 75 percent of the state's water supply. Gleick sat down with KALW's Ben Trefny to decipher the state's water issues. 

Part of this year’s SF Sketchfest includes a tribute to a local comedy team that pioneered improvisational comedy right here on the streets of San Francisco.

Living a balanced life requires an early morning for KALW's executive news editor Ben Trefny. It takes getting up before 6am to prepare lunch, and then breakfast, for his family, and that's just the start. In this commentary, he reflects upon the efforts he and his working wife make to give what they want to their kids and to each other.

Courtesy of SFGate

The San Francisco Chronicle has undergone radical transformations over the last several years. It has had to. In 2009, its readership dropped faster than any other newspaper in the country – 50 percent in just three years. While its reporters continue to win awards for their investigative journalism, the number of people actually reading that work in the paper has declined precipitously.

Jonathan Lifeson Smith

Charles Hodgkins and I are walking with several other burrito-eaters through the Mission District. He’s clearly the boss, though. It’s not just the T-shirt he’s wearing that says ‘Burrito Expert’ in Comic Sans. It’s that he’s earned that title by reviewing 999 burritos at his website He is the Burritoeater. And today he will review his final slab.

Reporting difficult stories requires journalists to go beyond headlines and sound bites. Unraveling complex issues means taking the time to dig deep--to go beyond the obvious and try to piece together sometimes hidden and conflicting facts to tell as complete a story as possible.

Marlena's Curtain Call: a documentary remembering a Hayes Valley gay bar and community hub.

The San Francisco Bay Area is famous for something that affects everybody’s visibility: fog.

Under CC license from Flickr user Steve Rhodes

Earlier this year, demonstrators staged a “camp-out” on the steps of Berkeley Post Office building, which dates to 1914. Residents don’t want to see it go, but it’s part of a much larger plan by the US Postal Service to sell some of its $85 billion real estate portfolio.

Investigative reporter Peter Byrne has written an e-book that explores the rationale behind the sales, taking on the behind-the-scenes issues that are forcing the Postal Service toward bankruptcy. The e-book is called “Going Postal: US Senator Diane Feinstein’s Husband Sells Post Offices to his Friends...Cheap.”

Sebastian Walker cut his teeth as a reporter covering the war in Iraq. He worked as a stringer for Reuters and operated an English language newspaper with fellow young journalists. 

"It was something that was criticized by a lot of more established journalists saying that without the relative experience reporting from that kind of a situation you really shouldn't be there, that's not the kind of risk worth taking," he tells KALW's Ben Trefny.

This is fire season. All you have to do is look around you to see the effects. 3,100 acres were blackened atop Mt. Diablo in September, and at the end of last week, at least three grassfires burned simultaneously, shrouding the East Bay in a dense cloud of brown smoke.

Every fire season, high dry winds and careless campers add to the incidents of wildfires. This summer, the worst was the Rim Fire--a massive forest fire that burned 400 square miles across the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park.

Courtesy of America's Cup

Courtesy of Tim Redmond

With so many media options to choose from, some older forms are getting less attention. So how are these changes reshaping what news we read, see, and hear? In our 'State of the Media' series KALW’s Ben Trefny is exploring this idea with Bay Area media makers. Today, he spoke with Tim Redmond, who recently left the San Francisco Bay Guardian after more than three decades with the paper.

Cleaning In The Rain

Sep 25, 2013
California Coastal Cleanup

The California Coastal Cleanup Day drew more than 50,000 volunteers to 850* sites around the state. They picked up more than half-a-million pounds of trash and recycling.

Courtesy of Orpheum Theater

Priscilla Queen of the Desert is showing at San Francisco's Orpheum Theater. KALW's Ben Trefny recorded a conversation with the tour's wardrobe supervisor Gillian Austin. Here's a peak behind the scenes.

Under CC license from Flickr user D. H. Parks

Many government institutions are struggling these days, among them, the United States Postal Service. One way the USPS has been trying to make money is by selling off its properties. More than 600 buildings have been targeted, with a total projected worth of more than two billion dollars. 

Dave Dugdale / Flikr Creative Commons

This weekend, over 100 meteors per hour will descend on Earth in the annual Perseid Shower, otherwise known as the "fireball champion." This shower contains the highest concentration of bright meteors, called fireballs, which are known for leaving bright, visible streaks in the sky as they fall, more so than any other recurring meteor shower. San Francisco's "Urban Astronomer" Paul Salazar explained what you can see in the night sky over the weekend. 

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder affects 8.4 percent of school-age children in the US. If you have ADHD, you already know what that means. It makes you restless. It makes it hard to focus. It makes it hard to stay focused, hard to pay attention, and hard to control your behavior, even if you want to. In 2010, we brought you a whole show focused on ADHD and its effects. We spoke with four San Francisco teenagers living with ADHD about how they managed from day to day.

DOMA is overturned; and Marlena's Curtain Call: a documentary remembering a Hayes Valley gay bar and community hub.

To subscribe to the Crosscurrents podcast in iTunes, click here. To use another podcasting tool, click here.

Under CC license from Flickr user slworking2

Sunnyvale-based Yahoo made headlines earlier this year when CEO Marissa Mayer announced that employees would no longer be allowed to work from home. Now the City of San Francisco is entering a similar realm of debate. Supervisor David Chiu has proposed that it should be mandatory for all businesses operating in San Francisco to allow their workers who are parents or caregivers the option to change their work schedules at any time.

The story at City College of San Francisco has had a lot of twists and turns since last year, and the San Francisco Chronicle’s higher education reporter, Nanette Asimov, has been one of the public’s main sources for information on it. She sat down with KALW’s Ben Trefny to talk about how the school got to where it is today, and where it’s going next.

Under CC license from Flickr user mrjoro

The Eastern span of the Bay Bridge is the region’s biggest-budget project. Plans for the seismically strong segment were first developed in 2002. It’s been more than a decade and the single suspension structure has cost more than $6 billion, which makes it overdue and over budget.

Recent issues involving snapping rods and improperly galvanized bolts may delay the long-awaited Labor Day opening.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Jaxon Vanderbeken has been covering the Bay Bridge controversies. KALW’s Ben Trefny sat down with him for a wide-ranging conversation.


The Eastern span of the Bay Bridge is the region’s biggest-budget project. Plans for the seismically strong segment were first developed in 2002. It’s been more than a decade and the single suspension structure has cost more than $6 billion, which makes it overdue and over budget.

Recent issues involving snapping rods and improperly galvanized bolts may delay the long-awaited Labor Day opening.

Millions of people are crazy about sports, whether or not their teams are any good. Exactly why that is is the subject of Eric Simons’ new book: The Secret Lives of Sports Fans: The Science of Sports Obsession. Simons sat down with KALW’s Ben Trefny to talk about the chemistry of fandom.

If you imagine your dream job, what would it be?

Bob Harris has had a lot of jobs that may have made your list. About 15 years ago, Harris was a standup comedian, working out of L.A. Then he sent a demo tape into the city’s top radio news station, and he landed a job as a syndicated talking head.

He’s also been on Jeopardy 13 times and was even the “lifeline”for a friend on the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?” He helped his friend get a quarter-million dollars.

He’s also been a travel writer and is a published author. According to Harris, the most important thing he’s done is write a new book called The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time. KALW’s Ben Trefny asked Bob Harris to share the story of how it happened.