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

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.

Annette Bernhardt / Flickr

Demonstrations against police brutality and the criminal justice system are continuing tonight in the Bay Area, following a weekend of protests that resulted in violent clashes in several locations. Significant protests took place in Berkeley Saturday night, when demonstrators blocked a freeway onramp. At some point police responded with batons and tear gas. 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.

US Census / US Census

It’s hard to define individual identity. For example, if you're Spanish speaking, what do you call yourself? Latino? Hispanic? Something else? Berkeley professor G. Cristina Mora dug into the  history of what Spanish speakers were called in America in her new book 'Making Hispanics: How Activists, Bureaucrats and Media constructed a New American.' It tells the story of how and when Spanish speakers in America got their own ethnic category on the US census, and what that iconic moment led to. G. Cristina Mora joined Hana Baba in studio, and Mora told her that story. 

It’s the morning after, and while much of the country woke up to a red dawn, California and the San Francisco Bay Area pushed progressive politics a little further forward.


The San Francisco Giants won their third World Series championship in five years in 2014. They celebrated in a rare rainstorm in Civic Center plaza on Halloween.

Daniel Alarcón is a novelist who lives in San Francisco. But there’s more to him than that. His identity reaches across many borders. And his storytelling traverses multiple media.

His latest book, At Night We Walk in Circles, was a finalist for this year's PEN/Faulkner award. His feature story "The Contestant" was part of the first edition of the California Sunday Magazine. And you may have heard his show Radio Ambulante – a Spanish-language podcast that airs Thursday nights on KALW that is often compared with This American Life.

This Sunday, Alarcón is expanding his broad horizons even further, hosting a live Radio Ambulante event in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. The show is called Outsiders and will feature multimedia storytelling from Cuba, Chile, Mexico, and the United States.

Judy Irving

Pelican Dreams filmmaker Judy Irving talks with KALW's Ben Trefny about the technical aspects of making a documentary.

Judy Irving

Documentary filmmaker Judy Irving's movie "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" was a love letter to San Francisco and some of its most colorful residents. Now, Irving has turned her camera toward another local bird: the California brown pelican. The new film "Pelican Dreams" has its world premiere is tomorrow (Friday) night at three Bay Area theaters.

The celebrated documentarian joined KALW's Ben Trefny in studio to talk about her latest work.

Ben Trefny

Visiting AT&T Park before the San Francisco Giants host a World Series game provides a fascinating juxtaposition of feelings. It's all about anticipation.

Fremont high school student Lynnea Shuck is being honored as one of the nation's top environmentalists. She and five others will receive the Brower Youth Award from the Earth Island Institute. The award is named after David Brower, an environmentalist who helped create the Point Reyes National Seashore and other nature preserves around the state and country.

Ben Trefny

Peter Liu says he’s "the world's smartest leader" and that he has developed a plan in which every Oaklander will have a chance to make a lot of money.

After fourteen rounds of ranked-choice eliminations, Oakland voting officials confirmed early Wednesday morning that Libby Schaaf will be Oakland's next mayor.

Libby Schaaf was born and raised in Oakland. She got into politics and worked with Ignacio de la Fuente and Jerry Brown before being elected to the city council, where she currently represents District 4 – which includes Montclair and Redwood Heights. 

Learn more about Oakland's mayor-to-be in this pre-election interview conducted by KALW's Ben Trefny.

Ben Trefny

Since the Arab Spring, the world has been watching armed conflict escalate in Syria. This Friday, the 17th of October, the Bay Area has a chance to consider the war-torn country in a different way -- by how it sounds.  Classical Syrian music gets an American interpretation at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. The Jazz and Syria Quintet will perform and participate in a discussion hosted by award-winning journalist Reese Erlich. 

"Finding the Gold Within" is the latest documentary from Berkeley filmmaker Karina Epperlein. The film focuses on the story of six young black men from Akron, Ohio, making the transition from high school to college. They face racism and stereotyping on their journey; but each draws strength from a mutual experience: a mentoring program for adolescents that has taught them confidence and self-respect. 

Ashleyanne Krigbaum / KALW 91.7


Rising costs in the Bay Area have forced many artists to pack up and leave town to find more affordable places to live. Tom DeCaigny is the Director of Cultural Affairs at the San Francisco Arts Commission, and it’s his job to understand the issues that artists and non-profits are facing in this city. 

Under CC license from Flickr user Mark Adkin

What happens to people in their 60s who can't afford to leave the workforce, but they can't find a job? One place unemployed seniors might turn for help finding a job is the Senior Community Service Employment Program. It provides job training to low income, unemployed people by finding them temporary work at nonprofits around the country. Roxanne Murray is a director working with the program for the Family Service Agency of San Francisco. 

This story is set to the music of Bay Area shakuhachi player Masayuki Koga, who runs the Japanese Music Institute of America. It’s from an album called Eastwind. All poetry in this piece can be found in the book Tamalpais Walking, by Tom Killion and Gary Snyder.

Human trafficking is the second most profitable criminal enterprise in the world. It's estimated to rake in $32 billion per year after drug trafficking. San Francisco is one of the nation’s trafficking centers.

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.