In June, KUCB partnered with Report for America to bring Theo Greenly – the station’s newest reporter – to Unalaska to help cover news in the Eastern Aleutian region and help produce local daily news. .
Greenly, a member of the body of the association that helps send reporters to newsrooms across the country, arrived on the island about a month and a half ago. He is originally from Orange County, California, and studied creative writing before entering journalism.
Maggie Nelson of KUCB sat down with Greenly to learn more about his background and how he is adjusting to his new home in the Aleutians.
THEO GREENLY: I knew I wanted to be a writer. And I was interested in a lot of things. But I wasn’t really sure how to apply it – how to get there. So I was a waiter and a bartender. I started to learn about wine. And so I ended up working for this guide to Italian wine reviews, and I was telling stories at Moth and doing that kind of personal essay, kind of memory type stuff. And through that, I ended up being on an episode of This American Life. I was a storyteller. I wasn’t a producer or anything. But I always really liked this show. And it just seemed like this unapproachable thing. And I didn’t really know – I was like, “Well, how do people do this and get this job? And so I put this question to the producer of this episode. And he said, “Well, you know, if you’ve got a few thousand dollars, like three months, you should go to this shop in Massachusetts.” I was like, ‘oh, wow, I don’t have any of those things. I have neither the time nor the money. And then the restaurant I worked in was sold, I was fired and I received severance pay. And so all of a sudden I was able to afford to go to this workshop. And so I applied and I went, and it kind of changed my life. So it was in 2019. So I was a freelance writer and I did one-off stories for different podcasts and radio stations. Since then, I’ve interned at KCRW, which is the public radio station in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, where I’m from. And I also did an internship with National Public Radio, in their podcast division.
KUCB: So it looks like you’ve got a lot of experience telling longer stories, podcasting, and creative writing. Tell me a bit about what piqued your interest in coming here to Unalaska to write more on the news.
GREENLY: So I have some news on the news. 10 years after graduating with my bachelor’s degree, I went back to school at a two-year college to take journalism classes. And I was the editor of the student newspaper there. And I really fell in love with writing news and being a journalist. I mean, I think it’s such a unique and cool job to have, and also a service to provide. On a personal level, I really like being able to wake up in the morning knowing nothing about a subject or like never having heard of something, and at the end of the day I spoke to a group of people who work in this area. thing. And I heard different sides of it and I got to, you know, come across this new thing or problem or person or something that I didn’t even know existed before. And so it’s just a really exciting career. It’s just a really exciting quest because you can talk to people and learn. And I really like it. As a service, I think it’s really invaluable. Far fewer people today have access to local news than before. And this is a very big problem. I think this is a very big problem.
KUCB: Yeah, so what you do as a member of the body of Report for America, which KUCB partners with to bring you here, sort of fills a gap for more local content. Could you kind of tell me a little bit about what you do with RFA? And yes, why are you here?
GREENLY: A lot of outlying areas, a lot of islands in the Aleutian chain, don’t get as much attention. So the idea was to bring in someone who could extend the coverage here so that we get more news and tell more stories of you know, Akutan and Sandpoint and False Pass and Nelson Lagoon and all these different places, and Nikolski – maybe the Pribilofs – I mean, there is such a vast area here. And I think it’s really important that the people of these communities can have the same service as the people of the big cities. That’s sort of the reason Report for America decided to send someone here. And I feel really lucky that I can be the person to come here and do this.
KUCB: And so while you’re here, as you discover all these new communities, immersing yourself in this totally new space, what are your goals? What do you really hope to learn and take away from this experience?
GREENLY: Basically I’m new to this neighborhood, I don’t know what’s important to the people who live in the neighborhood. And so, you know, being new to it for me right now, as the most important thing really is just to listen to people about what is important to them for everyone who lives in the communities. As I think of public radio and public media as a service, it’s public, it belongs to the people. I am there, we are there, the KUCB is there, the public radio is there to serve the community. So, all that is important to the community, all that people need to know more is what kind of stories I want to tell. So I really asked people these questions like, “What is important to you? What kind of stories should I make? For example, what kind of stories do you want to hear? What subjects do you not have enough information on? What are you getting too much information about? “
KUCB: And what have been the highlights – what’s been new and exciting for you over the past month and a half or so? As you started making TV news, learn more about how the newsroom works here at KUCB?
GREENLY: pretty much everything I’ve done before here, I’ve done it on my laptop. I have never used a mixer before. I’ve never been – I’ve never been live before. So this is all – it’s scary to me, and it’s really fun. I like the immediacy of it. And I love the community aspect, from the Vic show in the morning to the weather and marine forecast. It sounds like something that really brings the community together. I think it’s a really cool, unique and special experience to be able to be a part of it.
KUCB: And finally, is there anything else you would like to share with the Unalaska community?
GREENLY: The main thing I really want to say to everyone listening is that I really want to hear what you think about it. I really want to hear from everyone that I can. If there are any stories, topics, or things that you think I should pay attention to, I really want to know about it, I’m new to this area and I’m really trying to get into it intentionally. I don’t just try to find the stories that are the coolest for me. I want to tell the stories that are most important to everyone.
Contact Theo Greenly with news advice at [email protected]