Meet KUCB's New Reporter Theo Greenly
In June, KUCB partnered with Report for America to bring Theo Greenly — the station's newest reporter — to Unalaska to help cover news in the Eastern Aleutians area as well as contribute to local daily news production.
Greenly, a corps member for the nonprofit that helps send journalists to newsrooms around the country, came to the island about a month and a half ago. He's originally from Orange County, California and studied creative writing before making his way into the journalism field.
KUCB's Maggie Nelson sat down with Greenly to hear more about his background and how he's adjusting to his new home in the Aleutians.
THEO GREENLY: I knew that I wanted to be a writer. And I was interested in a lot of things. But I wasn't really sure like, how to how to apply it -- how to go at that. So I was waiting tables and bartending. I started getting into learning about wine. And so I ended up working for this Italian wine review guide, and was telling stories at the Moth and doing these kind of personal essays, kind of memoir type stuff. And through that, I ended up being on an episode of This American Life. I was a storyteller. I wasn't a producer or anything. But I had always really loved that show. And it just seemed like this inaccessible thing. And I didn't really know -- I was like, ‘well, how do people do this and get that job?’ And so I asked that question to the producer of that episode. And he said, ‘well, you know, if you have a few grand, and like three months, you should go to this workshop in Massachusetts.’ I was like, ‘oh, wow, I have neither of those things. I don't have the time or the money.’ And then the restaurant that I worked at sold, and I was laid off, and I got a severance package. And so all of a sudden, I could afford to go to this workshop. And so I applied and I went, and it kind of changed my life. So that was in 2019. And so I've been freelancing and doing stories on one-offs for different podcasts and radio stations. Since then, I did an internship at KCRW, which is the public radio station in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, where I'm from. And I also did an internship with National Public Radio, in their podcast division.
KUCB: So it sounds like you've had a lot of experience in longer-form storytelling and podcasting and creative writing. Tell me a little bit about what piqued your interest in coming here to Unalaska to do more news-focused kind of writing.
GREENLY: So I do have some news background. 10 years after I got my bachelor's, I went back to school at a two year college to take journalism classes. And I was the news editor at the student run paper there. And I really did fall in love with news writing and being a journalist. I mean, I think that it's such a unique and cool job to have, and also service to provide. On just a personal level, I really love that I can wake up in the morning knowing nothing about a subject or like never having heard of something, and by the end of the day, I have talked to a bunch of people who work in this thing. And I've heard different sides of it and get to, you know, encounter this new thing or issue or person or something that I didn't even know existed before. And so it's just a really exciting career. It's just a really exciting pursuit because you get to talk to people and learn. And I really love that. As a service, I think that it's really just invaluable. Way fewer people today have access to local news than they used to. And that's a really big problem. I think that that's a really big issue.
KUCB: Yeah, so what you're doing as a Report for America corps member, who KUCB is partnering with to bring you here, is kind of filling a gap for some more local content. Could you kind of just tell me a little bit about what it is you're doing with RFA? And yeah, why you're out here?
GREENLY: A lot of the outlying areas, a lot of islands in the Aleutian chain, don't have as much attention being paid. So the idea was to bring in somebody who can expand the coverage here so that we are getting more news and telling more stories from you know, Akutan and Sandpoint and False Pass and Nelson Lagoon and all of these different places, and Nikolski -- maybe the Pribilofs -- I mean, there's such a wide region here. And I think that it's really important that the people in these communities are able to have that same service that people in big cities are getting. So that's kind of why Report for America decided to send somebody out here. And I feel really fortunate that I get to be the person to, to come up here and do that.
KUCB: And so while you're up here, while you're learning about all these new communities, immersing yourself in this totally new space, what are some of your goals? What are you really hoping to learn and to take away way from, from this experience?
GREENLY: Basically, I'm new to this area, I don't know what is important to the people who live in the area. And so, you know, being new to this area for me right now, like the most important thing is really just to listen to people about what is important to them to anybody living in the communities. Like I think of public radio and public media as a service, it's public, it belongs to the people. I am here, we are here, KUCB is here, the public radio system is here to serve the community. So whatever is important to the community, whatever people need to know more about, those are the kinds of stories that I want to tell. So I’ve just really been asking people those questions like, “What is important to you? What, kind of stories should I be doing? Like, what kind of stories do you want to hear? What topics Do you not get enough information about? What do you get too much information about?’
KUCB: And so what have been some of the highlights -- what has been new and exciting for you, over the past month and a half or so? As you’ve started doing newscasts, learning more about how the newsroom works here at KUCB?
GREENLY: pretty much everything that I've made before here, I've made on my laptop. I've never operated a mixing board before. I've never been -- I've never gone live on the air before. So all of that is -- it's scary to me, and is really fun. I love the immediacy of it. And I love the community aspect of it, from Vic's show in the morning to getting the the weather and the marine forecasts. It feels like like something that really brings the community together. I think that it's a really cool and unique and special kind of experience to be able to be part of that.
KUCB: And finally, is there anything else that you'd like to share with the community of Unalaska?
GREENLY: The main thing that I would really just want to say to anybody who's listening is, I really want to hear from. I really want to hear from everybody that I can. If there are stories or topics or things that you think that I should be paying attention to, I really want to know, I'm new to this area and I am really trying to come into this intentionally. I'm not just trying to find the stories that are the coolest to me. I want to tell the stories that are the most important to everybody.
Contact Theo Greenly with news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.