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

David Zlutnick

Activists gathered in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, last month, to call attention to part of the city’s housing crisis. They got together around a three-unit apartment building where flats are rented out to vacationers through an online broker. The protesters plastered the building with green stickers that said the tourist rentals there are illegal.

Ashleyanne Krigbaum

Alton McSween found employment after his release mentoring other formerly incarcerated people through the California Reentry Institute. McSween goes by the name “Coach” -- a throwback to his days coaching high school track. That was his job back in 1992 when he got his first two convictions for burglary. In 2001, he was arrested for petty theft, and got 25 years to life under the state’s three strikes law.

Under CC license from Flickr user amehdiza.

This Thursday night, Paul McCartney will close the show at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. It will be the final public event at the storied stadium. This week, we’re looking back at the defining memories of the park. 

Today, KALW morning announcer, Joe Burke – a born-and-raised San Franciscan and a die-hard 49ers and Giants fan – reflects on attending Giants games as a child.

Under CC license from Flickr user Scott Beale.

The Bay Area is constantly evolving. We've gone from the Gold Rush to Silicon Valley; shifted from boom to bust, and back again. It can feel a little bit like déjà vu. Back in 2000, just before the dot-com bubble burst, unemployment in San Francisco was at an all-time low of 3 percent. It’s nearing that again – approaching what economists call "full employment," meaning, statistically anyway, there are jobs for everyone who wants one.

Google image reuse license.

Reporter Robert Rogers has been covering Richmond for years, first for the blog Richmond Confidential and now for the Contra Costa Times. That means he understands a lot of the back story behind the hearings taking place right now. KALW's Ben Trefny got in touch with Rogers at his office and asked him about the role the refinery plays in Richmond.

Interview: Naina Khanna

Jul 9, 2014

Back when HIV was first diagnosed in San Francisco, it hit the gay male population hard. Since that time, the virus has spread to more diverse communities. Naina Khanna is the executive director for Positive Women’s Network, which represents more than 2,500 HIV positive women. In 2010, she was appointed to president Obama’s Advisory council on HIV/AIDS. When Khanna herself was diagnosed with HIV in 2002, she was actually working on a different political campaign, as she told KALW’s Ben Trefny. 

San Francisco  spends about $165 million each year on homeless services, according to a report requested by city Supervisor Mark Farrell. In an attempt to understand the cost effectiveness of those programs, Supervisor Farrell organized a series of eight hearings this spring, focused on homeless services in San Francisco. Farrell sat down with KALW's Ben Trefny to talk about what came out of those hearings.

With rental housing being such a contentious topic in San Francisco, we thought it could be helpful to talk with the person who might know more about rent laws than anybody else in the city, the Executive Director of the San Francisco Rent Board.

It’s not your imagination. Bay commutes are getting longer and longer.

Jen Chien


In the rapidly changing mid-Market area of San Francisco, the influx of new tech companies into a historically low-income neighborhood is causing some conflict, especially around commercial real estate. Geoff Link is editor and publisher of the Central City Extra, a monthly newspaper serving the Tenderloin, mid-Market, and SOMA neighborhoods. It's put out by the Study Center, a publishing house that also supports non-profits.

As a journalist, Link has been monitoring changes taking place in this part of the city as tech companies move in, including the displacement of a lot of neighborhood non-profits. He himself has been affected-- the Study Center has had to move twice in the last two years.  Link spoke to KALW's Ben Trefny in the offices of Central City Extra.

Crosscurrents Presents: A Practical Guide to Disaster

Ben Trefny

Paul Salazar, or – as he calls himself on his blog – the Urban Astronomer recently joined KALW’s Ben Trefny in studio to talk about what’s up with the universe.

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.