Celebrating 20 Years Of Local News: Stephanie Joyce
Unalaska Community Broadcasting has covered local news for the past 20 years.
To mark the newsroom's anniversary, KUCB is spending every Thursday of 2019 looking back at our former reporters and sharing some of their stories.
In May, we focused on Stephanie Joyce, who was with the station from 2011 to 2013.
Joyce told KUCB's Zoë Sobel about how she got the job offer while she was interning at KFSK in Petersburg: Then-News Director Alexandra Gutierrez called her up and asked if she wanted it.
STEPHANIE JOYCE: I think it's probably the first — it was definitely the first and probably the last time that's ever going to happen in my life. It was a fortuitous coincidence of events, and I felt super lucky that [Alexandra Gutierrez] had both heard me and reached out. Then I took the job and I ended up in Unalaska.
KUCB: Having grown up in the state and worked in Alaska at other stations, what did you know about Unalaska or KUCB?
JOYCE: I knew absolutely nothing about Unalaska. Having grown up in Alaska, I had never heard of Unalaska. I have never heard of Dutch Harbor. I had no idea. Being from southeast, it's just a totally different world. All I really knew was that Alex had moved there from a pretty high-powered job in D.C. and that she was interested in telling stories from on the ground in a small community. And that's what I was interested in too.
KUCB: What were some of your favorite things to cover?
JOYCE: One of the biggest things we covered was Shell Oil's exploratory drilling in the Arctic. That was actually one of the reasons I wanted to be out in Unalaska — because I was interested in what was going to happen. So a lot of very exciting things happened on that front during my time in Unalaska, the biggest one being that Shell's drill rig ran aground. Actually, both of their drill rigs ran aground. One in Unalaska and the other one much more catastrophically in southcentral Alaska. At the time, it seemed very plausible that there could be a huge Arctic drilling campaign that would potentially change the future of the state of Alaska. Obviously, that's not how it turned out, but that was definitely something we spent a lot of time covering while I was there.
KUCB: I've heard the legacy of your time here was that you also did a lot of FOIAing and were very hard on local government.
JOYCE: I think one of our goals was to make sure that there was the kind of local reporting that citizens across most of the country take for granted from their local newspapers and their local media outlets — that we brought the same kind of reporting on local government and local affairs to Unalaska. I think your characterization might be because I don't know that Unalaska was a community that had really had a lot of that in the past. And so we definitely did a lot of digging into public records and holding public officials to account, which I think is one of the most fundamental roles of journalism — to ensure that public servants are doing the public's work.
KUCB: It seems like an impressive standard that has been set for newsrooms that come after you. I still have a number of your files in my filing cabinet. There's a lot.
JOYCE: Definitely. I spent a lot of time digging through contracts and chasing down various bids and things like that just to ensure that people who are serving the public are in fact not benefiting themselves, but benefiting all of us.
KUCB: We talked about the newsroom becoming a two-person operation. Were there any other station milestones that happened while you were at KUCB?
JOYCE: Another big thing that we worked on was getting people access to our website. Before I arrived, the website had been hosted on an NPR platform that was great if you were in the Lower 48 and you had a strong internet connection. But for the Unalaska community, it didn't work so well at the time, because the internet was basically dial-up speed. So in order to get to our home page, it would take letting it load for five minutes. So something Alex and I worked on together was getting a website created for KUCB that could actually be viewed by locals. And then, in terms of other station milestones, I had started my career in radio through internships at other public radio stations in Alaska. At the time, KUCB didn't have any kind of internship or fellowship program. And I thought it was really important to bring on new journalists who could potentially stay on and work at the station or go work at other stations in Alaska. So I started an internship program, and Lauren Rosenthal was the first person we hired and then obviously she went on to stay in Unalaska for several years beyond her internship.
KUCB: Do you have any favorite memories of Unalaska or anything you miss?
JOYCE: There's so much to love about Unalaska. I think the thing I miss the most is being outside. There's not a lot of places in the world where you can have such ready access to the outdoors and the amazing beauty of the outdoors as you can in Unalaska. I of course miss the community. I met so many interesting people in Unalaska. I think — per capita — the number of interesting people in Unalaska is higher than anywhere else in the nation. There's a lot to miss. It's a great place. You should definitely cherish your time there.
KUCB: How do you think living and working in Unalaska prepared you for the future and what you do now?
JOYCE: One of the things I didn't fully appreciate when I was there at the time was just there are very few places in the world where whatever story you tell is the news. That's a pretty unique thing. If you're in a big city like New York, there are dozens of news outlets that are all chasing the same five stories. Being out in Unalaska, having very little competition in the way of other people telling stories, meant that the stories we did choose to tell were that much more important. I think I learned how to really discern and prioritize what was important and figure out how to devote resources to that. Also that inevitably means deciding not to cover some other things. I think that's a skill that is so, so important for anyone who ends up — like I am — being an editor or a producer. Being able to decide what you're going to do well and what you're going to have to set aside.
Listen to some of Stephanie Joyce's reporting: