Ben Trefny

News Executive Editor

Ben handles daily operations in the news department, overseeing the editorial and sound engineering teams.  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.  Since then, under the leadership of news director Holly Kernan, he has helped the department win numerous 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.



Wed May 15, 2013
Cops & Courts

San Francisco Unified School District employees charged with stealing funds

San Francisco Unified School District headquarters

The San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) is dealing, today, with news that six employees misappropriated $15 million of public funds. A three-year investigation by law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office resulted in charges including grand theft, embezzlement, forgery, and perjury. Jill Tucker has been covering the case for the San Francisco Chronicle. In her cover story this morning, she details how the money was spread between school services, outside non-profits, internal computer systems, salaries, and benefits. I reached Tucker by phone and asked her how $6.7 million were allegedly used on student programs that were not designated by grant funding.

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Tue May 14, 2013
Three Strikes Law

Three strikes, you're in (for life)

Many three-strikes prisoners are getting a second chance in California since the passage of Prop 36. Back in November, 69 percent of Californians voted yes on the proposition to change the Three Strikes Law, which was enacted in 1994. It sentenced offenders with three or more felony convictions to 25 years to life in prison -- and comparatively minor crimes could qualify as the third strike. 

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Mon April 1, 2013
Arts & Culture

Google Brain goes into beta testing

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 social network, Google Plus. And they’ve recently started talking about a new product, Google Glass – smart spectacles that take pictures, perform searches, and navigate for whoever wears them.

Google caught some flack for the futuristic – and downright nerdy – look of the glasses. So the company hired Silicon Valley startup, Bergoglio, to design and test the prototype of a Google Brain, which boasts all the features of Google glasses without the fashion statement. KALW’s Ben Trefny sat down with Alexis Channing-Sorkle, the first recipient of the still-in-beta product, to pick – or search – her brain.

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Mon March 18, 2013
Arts & Culture

Film festival opens a window to Asian American family life

Courtesy of

What we learn from our families is often very private. It’s knowledge we keep inside of us – and that the world doesn’t always get a chance to see. Filmmaker Mark Decena is hoping to open a window onto that kind of family life with his new film, The War Inside, involving his own childhood home movies. The film is a project of the Center for Asian American Media, CAAM, which is hosting its 31st annual festival this year and launching a new national initiative to collect and preserve Asian American home movies.  KALW's Ben Trefny spoke with Decena about the value of finally bringing these national memories to light, and Decena's personal contribution to the collection.

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Tue March 12, 2013

Where's the best place to view the Comet PanSTARRS?

UFOs may be a bit far fetched, but this week there is something else coming from outer space. The Comet PanSTARRS can be seen in western skies this week.  To learn more about the science behind the spectacle, KALW's Ben Trefny spoke with Urban Astronomer Paul Salazar.

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