Unalaska Community Broadcasting has covered local news for the past 20 years.
To mark that anniversary, KUCB is spending every Thursday of 2019 looking back at our former reporters and sharing some of their stories.
In October, we focused on Greta Mart, who worked in the newsroom in 2015 and 2016.
She spoke with KUCB's Laura Kraegel about her experience, which started when General Manager Lauren Adams tapped her for a temporary gig.
GRETA MART: Lauren said, "Hey, would you be interested in coming out and filling in here for three months?" I looked on the map. I'm, like, "the Aleutian Islands?" I looked way out there at Unalaska and said, "Sure, you know, I can go anywhere for three months. Who can't?" And, of course, I fell in love with it, and I ended up staying almost a year.
KUCB: Tell me about your first story for KUCB. I know it was a big one.
MART: My very first story was covering a board meeting of the Museum of the Aleutians. It was the bible story. An employee came to the board, said that she had housesat for Zoya Johnson — who was then the executive director — and that she had found an artifact from the collection in Zoya's home. The board deliberated what they should do about it, and then they decided to put her on paid administrative leave. I simply reported that, and I was immediately attacked by Zoya. She was going to sue me and she was going to sue KUCB. And here, this is my first day. This is my first assignment, and it really upset me to the point where I got hives. I broke out in hives because I was so upset about this. [Reporter] John Ryan had edited my story, so we went back over it word for word. We made sure there were no errors. I was just simply reporting on a public meeting. But it was very unpleasant to go to a very small town and have that be my first experience — where I've completely alienated and made a very potent enemy out of a member of the City Council, who's also the executive director of the museum and who has a lot of friends and history there. And here, who am I? Just showing up and reporting on a public meeting, yet it was definitely a case of "Let's kill the messenger."
KUCB: That's a very intense way to start a new job. And I know all or most of KUCB's reporters have found themselves in somewhat similar situations, covering sensitive issues in our small community. What did you learn from the experience?
MART: Well, it made me a better reporter. That's for sure. When you have to go about and doubt yourself — "Did I get something wrong? Did I report everything as accurately as it transpired?" But the answer was "yes," and so it kind of gave me a little bit of confidence. But I also really ensure that every single story I have produced since then is bulletproof. Because I know what can happen. And I really believe that that is crucial to fair and balanced coverage of a community. I think it's really important to have reporters come from the outside — and not have reporters who have grown up there. Because it's inextricably bound — your personal life. It's so hard to separate that and be able to be an effective reporter. I think it's really important to have outside people come in.
KUCB: That's really interesting. Because as a reporter, you definitely need some of that distance so you can do your job fairly and accurately. But at the same time, you really do need to be a part of the community and understand what's going on.
MART: Yes, exactly. So I felt it was really a challenge to go talk to the [Qawalangin] Tribe and get in a position where I felt like anyone was really actually giving me any information. That was an instance where I think it would take a lot of time to earn a position of trust as a reporter — to be able to really report on the inner workings of the tribe. So I did feel like I never really got that experience. I never was there long enough to foster that trust required to report on really serious, more internal topics.
KUCB: I'm really with you on that. I've been on the island and with KUCB for about three years, and it's still very difficult to get into some subjects or access some parts of the community. It takes time and trust.
MART: I wish I would've had more of that opportunity. Because as you said, you've been there three years, and maybe you have to be there 10 years. I don't know how long you have to be some place. Or, if ever — if you're ever able to get into that position. But I can see there's a real dichotomy. Between outside reporters coming in and being able to report in a fair, balanced, and unbiased way, because you don't have connections. You don't have allegiances to one thing or biases towards another group or anything like that. That's beneficial. But on the other hand, are you really getting into reporting that actually matters to the people that live there? I spent a lot of time thinking about that while I was there.
KUCB: Any chance we'll see you back in Unalaska at some point? Any plans to visit?
MART: I really want to come back. One of my greatest regrets is that I purposely stayed longer because I had my heart set on taking the [M/V Tustumena] ferry out of there. I bought a cabin and I was going to take it to Homer and fly home from there. I was booked on the first ferry of the season. And of course, the rusty Tusty went into the shop. It was broken, so they canceled it and I had fly out. That's one of my regrets. I desperately want to come back and do that trip of taking the ferry along the Aleutian Islands.
Listen to some of Greta Mart's reporting: