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.
KUCB's Laura Kraegel sat down with fellow reporter Zoë Sobel to ask how she came up with the idea for the series.
ZOË SOBEL: Back around the time that we had our 24-hour fundraiser, we were talking about how it was 10 years of KUCB. And then I decided that we should know how long there was a newsroom, and it turned out that 20 years was going to be this year. And I really wanted to know more about the history of the station and the reporters who came before us. So it seemed like a perfect way to do that, especially because we've had essentially 12 reporters and there are 12 months in a year.
LAURA KRAEGEL: And just to be totally clear, you're saying that even though KUCB recently turned 10 years old, our radio station actually had a newsroom for 10 years prior to that. That Unalaska Community Broadcasting had a local newsroom back when we were still a repeater station called KIAL, rebroadcasting the feed from KDLG in Dillingham. Back before we even had our current call letters.
SOBEL: Yeah, so you did a story about 10 years of KUCB — the KUCB identity. And in that story, it talked about how at the beginning, Jim Paulin would cut into our KDLG repeater and do local news. And that's how it started, which is not at all like what we have now. So I wanted to know a little bit more about the people who came before us and what was important then and how the technology's changed. And how the station operated back then, we were little kids, to now, when we're adults.
KRAEGEL: And the idea is to remember the station's pretty long list of past reporters and celebrate the work they did for the community, right?
SOBEL: For sure. Everybody in Unalaska is a workaholic, and I know that's true for reporters, from my experience. And I think taking a little bit of time to pay attention to some of the really hard and good work they did in their time here is important. And it also just helps educate all of us a little bit more about the history of this place we call home.
KRAEGEL: And rather than produce one big anniversary story, you proposed that we feature one reporter each month for the entire year.
SOBEL: Yeah. Since we've had 12 full-time reporters, it seemed only fair to dedicate one month to each of them. So we've had Mr. January, Jim Paulin. And Laura, you've actually been tasked with finding the person who we thought was going to be February, but you had some trouble.
KRAEGEL: Right, so the second reporter in Unalaska Community Broadcasting's history was a man named Morris Bracy, and he was technically the second reporter after Jim and before Charlie Homans. I was going to try to find and interview him about his experience, but he's impressively off the grid. We searched all the emails that we have of his on record, and I sent out emails that all bounced back. We did a lot of research to find every phone number for every Morris Bracy that we could find in the country.
SOBEL: Which, shockingly, there are a number of them.
KRAEGEL: There are some. And we would call phone numbers, never really getting anybody and leaving voicemails that were never returned. So as far as we know, he's just out there doing something completely different or enjoying his privacy, so unfortunately, we're not able to profile Morris Bracy. If you remember him from hearing his stories many years ago, then it's not because we didn't want to include him. It's just that he's a hard man to find. But on the positive side, he really does seem to be the only person to have that issue. Everybody else that we're looking at on the list of 12 reporters is somebody that we're very confident we'll be able to contact — or we've already done so. So I think that should be the only instance.
SOBEL: Yeah, absolutely. And instead, we're going to get to Charlie Homans just a little bit sooner. I got to talk to him back in November in New York, and it was really wonderful. I got to go visit him at the New York Times, where he works covering politics for the New York Times magazine. And it was just exciting to hear about what life was like then [in Unalaska]. And we're happy to share that with you in February.
KRAEGEL: And what exactly can our listeners expect in February? How is this series going to work?
SOBEL: Similar to January, on the first Thursday of the month, we're going to air a conversation. This month, it'll be with me and Charlie, talking about his time in Unalaska and where he is now and how his time in Unalaska helped him get there. And then every subsequent Thursday for that month, we're going to hear one of his stories from his time here, and there are some fun ones.
KRAEGEL: I feel like we're going to hear some really interesting personal stories, as well as some real reporting gems. I mean, I have Anne Hillman, who worked here for three years. And then I also have Greta Mart and Lauren Rosenthal. Who else will you be profiling, Zoë?
SOBEL: There are so many people I still have to talk to. But I also have interviews in the bag with John Ryan, who was here for a summer when Shell was going on. Also talking with Annie Ropeik, who was here for just under two years as the last permanent reporter before I started. So I'm really excited to share all of them.