Inspiring environmental radio from San Francisco – RISE

12 Apr

Claire Schoen from San Francisco is a radio maker whose work I’ve been aware of for some time. Claire is not only an amazing radio producer and storyteller, but also an educator who teaches long-form radio production in her regular “Soup-to-Nuts” and “Make  Scene” radio making courses, and who in the past has taught at U.C. Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies.

I’ve been meaning to make it over to San Francisco for years to do one of her courses, but so far I’ve had to make do with listening to some of her great advice on audio verité on the Third Coast International Audio Festival website, and listening to the archive of her inspiring programs.

Earlier this year Claire published a series called RISE, about how sea level rise caused by climate change might affect communities around the San Francisco Bay Area. What I love about these program is the richness of the style. They manage to marry a focus on an important scientific subject with an interest in community and grassroots voices. They blend specially composed music with rich ambient sounds that transport you to a particular place.

Claire has a particular flare for not only avoiding those radio cliches, but taking standard ingredients like a vox pop or the introduction of a new character, and editing it in such a way as to create something with pace, rhythm and freshness.

Claire also doesn’t sit on the fence when it comes to climate change and communities. She doesn’t take sides, so much as choose a perspective, but RISE does feel like a challenge for action and change. That, and the strong location of her programs in a specific location, makes me wonder whether a series like this would be commissioned by the BBC, something that I know she would like to happen. But this underlying passion to me is part of what makes her radio making so compelling in the first pace, and is just the kind of radio I would like to hear more of on the BBC.


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