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

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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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.

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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.

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