KBIA alum Juana Summers is the newest co-host of All Things Considered
Juana Summers is a member of the class of 2009. Everyone at KBIA would like to wish her a warm congratulations.
She spoke with KBIA in April as part of our 50th anniversary project.
Here's part of that conversation:
I go into any interview with a voter or person that I'm meeting in a community and I act under the assumption that I am probably the first reporter they have ever spoken to. So I'm not just introducing them to myself and my news organization, however my interactions with them go that's going to change how they think about the media moving forward.
So there are a couple of things I keep in mind when I'm having those conversations. And the biggest one is to make sure that a person is never surprised at how they might hear or see themselves portrayed. I'm always incredibly upfront about the type of story that I'm doing—so making sure that people are clear what they're consenting to, and how they're consenting to being used.
And not everybody might agree with this, but it's what I do: I let people ask me questions, too. People might want to know if I've ever been to their community before, or where I grew up or why I'm interested in a certain story, and I try to come into those environments with as much transparency as possible.
Can you describe an experience where you worked with a source who maybe had not interacted with media before?
My colleague Barbara Sprunt, who is a producer on the Washington Desk, and I went to Texas to do a story about the first election in that state under the new elections bill, SB 1, which made a number of changes to how Texans are able to vote—a number of those changes specifically impacting people who can vote by mail. So we're largely talking about people who are senior citizens, people who are part of the disability community are two of the biggest groups impacted. We spoke with a woman who uses a power chair and has a progressive, currently untreatable disability. And she invited us into her home—which was a big risk for her already during a pandemic—but she wanted us to come in and talk with her about her situation: the fact that part of this bill did away with curbside voting.
So she could no longer drive up, or be driven up, and just put her—she had other friends, they can't just put their ballot in a drop box when they drive up to the curb anymore. They have to wait in long lines. There's a lot more hurdles that have to jump by. She felt like because of all the ways her vote changed, she felt forced to—at what she felt like was risk to herself—go out and vote in person.
And we spent like an hour and a half with this woman in her home. And she talked to us about all these challenges and the ways in which she felt like her access to the franchise voting as a person who lives with a disability has been limited and limited and limited by the state that she lived in for years.
And at first she wasn't sure if she wanted to talk to us, but we were able to kind of earn her trust just by being transparent about what the story is and why we cared about it. By talking with her about the other parts of the story that we were telling.
And again, I think it's that transparency and also just being willing to put in the time. You can earn people's trust in five minutes. So sometimes it takes that longer investment of time and making sure that a person feels comfortable when they are speaking to you.
Can you tell me a bit about your time at KBIA? Are there any, like, stories that stick out to you or experiences that you want to share?
KBIA was the first place I ever had the opportunity to cover presidential campaign politics, which is what I've been doing largely for the last, oh, 10 plus years since I left Mizzou.
I was in college during the 2008 campaign, and I was able to travel outside of Missouri to go to both the vice presidential announcements for Senator John McCain, who was running on the Republican side of the aisle when he named Sarah Palin as his running mate. And for then candidate Barack Obama, when he named Joe Biden as his running mate.
And KBIA gave me the freedom to go out and interview voters and to cover these huge high profile news events. And like, I was 20 years old. And I knew that I wanted to cover politics. And having that freedom, to be able to be in the press pool with with professional reporters to be able to ask voters questions, and to be able to come back and put together a piece for the audience in mid Missouri, it was one of the coolest things I've ever done.
And I think it really cemented for me that what I'm doing right now is kind of exactly what I always wanted to do.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
The only other thing that I would say is, you know, I've worked all over media in the last decade plus. And one of the things I love that Mizzou gave me was the Convergence Program.
And because of the nature of that program, it really pushed me to think about being flexible and being innovative and learning how to work in a ton of different situations, but also on a ton of different platforms. And it's something that has served me really well in every job I've had, I would say.
I've been back at NPR for almost three years now. But I worked at CNN, I've worked at the AP, and done all of these different things. And I think it is that spirit of flexibility and innovation and creativity that has really driven me to be able to cover an incredibly competitive beat for a bunch of different places and a bunch of different platforms.
And I did not realize until I was much further removed from school how how impactful that would be and how meaningful it would be for my career.
The 50 Project was made possible through the support of our sponsors, long-term KBIA listeners David Black and Lee Wilkins.