Podcaster Wins Journalism Award

By BRITTANY LADIN, USF NEWS Posted Mon, 03/27/2017 - 17:29

As a newbie audio producer learning the ins and outs of recording and editing, Kat Hong '17 completed a series of stories for her Advanced Radio Production class with Assistant Professor Beth Hoffman. It was the final project and a major portion of her grade. She poured her energy into it and earned an "A."

Still, no one was more surprised than Kat when she won a Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Mark of Excellence award for her outstanding work.

Why is That a Thing?”, her three-part podcast series, dives into why blue is for boys and pink for girls when it was once the other way around, how different people perceive death and dying, and why we humans are obsessed with aliens. 

USF News asked the media studies major what she learned from producing the award-winning series.

1. How did the first episode on gender as a social construct come to be? 

I originally planned for the first episode to be about the history of gendering colors — why blue is considered a “boy color” and pink a “girl color.” One thing I learned is that it used to be reversed — blue for girls and pink for boys. As I delved deeper, I realized I wanted to look at gender as a learned behavior versus something dictated by genetics. I wanted to find out why that is “a thing.” From there, the piece evolved to explore how gender influences our society as a whole.

2. Your episode on death gets personal. Were you nervous about going there?

I had been working on the piece about death and dying when my mom called and told me that my grandfather had passed away. I was definitely nervous about getting personal, but it was also cathartic to share and be honest. It was also helpful to listen to people speak so candidly about death and dying — it normalized losing my grandfather, reminding me that dying is part of the lifecycle process.

3. What interested you about extraterrestrials prior to doing the third podcast episode?

The idea of aliens have always been cool to me. I love that no theory is too crazy or impossible, and find it comforting to think that we aren’t alone in the universe. I’m curious why we haven’t made contact with extraterrestrial life, and why we have no knowledge of other intelligent life. 

4. Do you think you found answers to the question “why is that a thing?” through creating these podcasts?

I don’t know if I ever definitively answered the question, “Why is that a thing?” If anything, this podcast helped me to realize that there aren’t black and white answers that one can point to about societal norms, death, and aliens. Rather, all we can do is listen to one another and work together to tackle life’s biggest questions.

5. What was your favorite part of the production process?

I really liked the freedom we had with this project. From start to finish, Professor Hoffman gave us full creative control — from pitching ideas to setting up interviews, we had to do it all. That resulted in a beautiful range of projects. Some in the class created scripted, fictional pieces about delinquent raccoons, and time/space traveling robots; others did nonfiction pieces about the price of religious identity and in-depth, creative interviews with local bands. One person even did non-narrative soundscapes of different spaces in San Francisco. It was exciting and inspiring to hear the talented works of everyone else in the class.

6. What did you think about winning the SPJ award? And what’s next for you? 

It was unexpected, but exciting. It’s really heartwarming to have other people validate your work.

Right now, I’m working on a new podcast, "Who Cut the Cheese?" It features a different cheese and its history each week. I also want to interview local cheese stores owners about their experiences operating in the Bay Area.

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