PRX at Ten / Where Are They Now: Kiera Feldman, Rockstar Journalist
This post is part of PRX at Ten's Where Are They Now series about former PRX staff. Cross posted from the PRX blog
Back when Generation PRX started YouthCast in 2006 — a podcast to showcase the best in youth-produced radio — we decided to look for a smart host who could reach both youth and adult audiences. Kiera Feldman – who began in youth radio at KBOO and was a Brown University junior at the time – basically blew the lid off what we asked for and elevated the job to art form. Funny, talented and whip-insightful, we knew Kiera was destined for greatness. Now a freelance reporter for the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund, we asked Kiera to share what she's been up to since the good ol' YouthCast days.
I often find myself returning to something I read in a Transom essay some years back. "Radio is my first love," wrote Gwen Macsai, "and like a first love, no matter how far you stray and no matter how badly it ended, your heart still skips a beat when it walks through the door."
Back when I hosted PRX's alt.NPR YouthCast podcast (2007-2008), I thought of myself first and foremost as a Radio Person. I'd be making annual pilgrimages to public radio conferences 'til I died, I thought. But these days, my shotgun mic is stashed away beneath my bed, still a treasured possession but more of a relic from another time. (It's an AT835b, because I know you want to know.)
To recap: after graduating college in 2008, I moved to Brooklyn because it was a thing people did. I found a new extracurricular: producing segments for a progressive radio collective on WBAI called Beyond the Pale, and I've stuck with it ever since. (That first year, I also worked on PBS documentaries and as a fill-in producer at WNYC.) I was the only 20-something in the lefty radio collective, which meant I'd get goaded into doing all the stories that involved young people and going into the belly of the beast. I was a Radio Person working with print people on a volunteer-run show, and gradually I became a print person, too. It started with doing magazine versions of radio stories, like this n+1 story about Jews for Jesus.
The thing was, in the radio world, there just wasn't much opportunity to do longform narrative storytelling of the muckraking variety–which I discovered was what really made me tick. But that's a thing you can do in magazines, and I'm deeply indebted to radio: my ear for dialogue, being able to pull off the print version of the perfect tape-to-tape transition, being able to do interviews where you get people to recount events so that you can reconstruct it as a scene later (the Ira Glass "and then what did you say? And then what did she say? And what was going through your mind?" approach), and on and on.
Lots of my stuff is on my website, but here are some highlights:
+ The story I'm most proud of: "Grace in Broken Arrow," about child sex abuse cover-up at an Oklahoma megachurch. (Over at the Nieman Foundation, I laid out some of my thoughts and working theories about trauma reporting, investigative narrative, and the tremendous honor and responsibility of being entrusted with vulnerable people's stories.)
+ "The Romance of Birthright Israel" in The Nation. The story was funded by the awesome and amazing Investigative Fund, which is supporting a few of my current projects (thus making it possible to be a freelance investigative reporter).
+ The last radio story I did–a dispatch from the Birthright trenches–and it is pretty funny, I must say.
+ "Living the American Dream in the West Bank" for VICE: about New Yorkers who become West Bank settlers ("the long white flight," I called it in a follow-up story).