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Public Affairs

Prof joins public affairs radio show

January 20, 2006

Photo of Yumi Wilson at work in the KALW-FM studioWhen journalism Assistant Professor Yumi Wilson gave her students an assignment to write about the California special election in November, many of them became better informed about the ballot measures by listening to her -- on public radio, that is.

As a host of "City Visions Radio," a weekly public affairs program on KALW-FM 91.7, Wilson discusses public policy issues that affect the Bay Area, state and beyond. The program is driven by panels of guest experts and calls from listeners, a format similar to that of "Forum," the KQED-FM mainstay hosted by longtime English Professor Michael Krasny. Recent discussions led by Wilson on "City Visions Radio," aside from the special election, include domestic violence, homelessness in San Francisco, and the controversy over the teaching of intelligent design.

Since September, Wilson has been host every other week, alternating with Executive Producer Rose Levinson, who founded "City Visions" in 1991. Levinson said about 7,000 to 10,000 people listen each week, not including the unknown number of online listeners who have called in from as far as Phoenix. Everyone on the show is a volunteer.

Levinson described Wilson as "bright, perceptive, and real aware of public policy issues and news coverage. She is able to articulate in a way that is easy for listeners to understand."

The program's format allows listeners to gain stronger perspectives on issues that can't be gained from mainstream news media, Wilson said. "We have people on both sides of the issue, so we can have discourse, not just the news."

Wilson, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter for 11 years before landing a tenure-track professorship in the Journalism Department in 2004, enjoys the challenge of radio. She not only prefers the medium's invisibility over television -- where she had to worry about her physical appearance when appearing on public affairs programs such as KQED-Channel 9's "This Week in Northern California" -- but also its spontaneity over print reporting.

"I love the drama of radio," she said. "You put on your headphones and you never know what's going to happen."

Her radio gig also exemplifies a growing trend in journalism -- the convergence of print, broadcast and online media.

"It is an example of what our students should be thinking about," said Wilson, who is also writing her memoirs and is an MFA candidate in creative writing at University of San Francisco.

"City Visions Radio" airs from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Mondays. KALW-FM is licensed to the San Francisco Unified School District and is funded largely by listener donations, with additional support from grants, underwriting and the Corp. for Public Broadcasting.

-- Matt Itelson
Photo: Judith Sansone


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Last modified January 20, 2006 by University Communications