On a flight from Mexico City to Juarez, KQED radio reporter Alex Hall shared her experiences as one of the only radio reporters serving California’s Central Valley.
Her beat spans hundreds of miles— from Fresno to Bakersfield— where she reports on immigration, agriculture, water shortages and conservative politics for a statewide audience. Hall creates a connection between listeners in San Francisco’s tech hubs and eco-friendly coffee shops to communities who work in Fresno’s grape vineyards and citrus fields.
“I work for a radio station that’s in the Bay Area and I live three hours away in a place that no one wants to go to,” she says. “I basically live between these two different worlds.”
Hall—who is warm and inquisitive— says one of her biggest challenges is easing Central Valley community members’ anxiety about participating in a story.
“It’s a red island in a blue state,” she says. “There’s a lot of people who don’t trust the media and believe the whole fake news rhetoric. Some people have beliefs about the work that I do and don’t understand that we do care about not only accuracy, but fairness.”
Hall grew up in Northern California, studied Spanish at UC Santa Cruz and completed her master’s degree in Latin American Studies. While in New York, she sat in on radio workshop taught by former NPR managing editor John Dinges. She fell in love a craft that focused on original reporting and people who expose her to different ways of living and thinking.
“What I would love is for you to show me something I don’t know and that listeners don’t know,” she says. “Genuinely being interested— What is it really? Who are you really?”
Hall started her reporting career at a radio station exchange program at the Universidad de Chile. With a notebook, recorder and microphone in hand— Hall traveled and freelanced in Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina. After running out of money, she found a job at the Venezuelan TV station Telesur in Washington D.C. and later accepted an investigative reporting fellowship at Wisconsin Public Radio.
For Hall, there’s a magic in simplifying a complex topic and helping her listeners understand the information on the first try.
“I didn’t go to journalism school and my parents aren’t lawyers,” she said. “I think in school I was maybe intimidated by understanding complex issues of how government works and it’s really cool to be able to break that down… People aren’t experts and they shouldn’t have to be to understand what is happening in their community.”
During our four-day IWMF Hostile Environment and First Aid Training, Hall often asked some of the best questions while also cracking jokes. She would pass along a bottle of essential oils to help calm fellows after intense self-defense scenarios. (Hall also makes her own soap with essential oils and herbs.)
One of Hall’s big takeways from HEFAT was the importance of preparation.
“So much of this risk is mitigated by planning,” she said.
Hall, who tends to be spontaneous in nature, also admitted, “I really enjoyed shooting the guys with the paintball guns.”
Erika Schultz, 2019 US-Mexico Border Fellow