A Citizen Journalist on the National Convention beat

Pacifica team

The Pacifica broadcast crew at the Republican National Convention, including hosts Mitch Jeserich (KPFA-Berkeley) and Askia Muhammad (WPFW-Washington DC), and in the far center, Jon Almeleh (Pacifica technical director) and in orange, Chief Engineer Moe Thomas (WPFW).

Pacifica Radio’s national broadcasts are exciting opportunities for citizen journalists at local community radio stations to perform on the national stage. Just ask Columbus, Ohio reporter Evan Davis. 

evan davis2

Evan Davis “on the beat” for his show Conscious Voices on WCRS (Columbus). Last week Evan joined the Pacifica team in Cleveland.

Evan regularly hosts and produces a weekly talk show, Conscious Voices, on Pacifica affiliate WCRS in Columbus. But last week Evan joined the Pacifica team covering the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. This was his third political convention reporting for Pacifica Radio.

Evan’s job in Cleveland was to gather audio from outside the convention hall, at the designated protest area 3 blocks away. He also collected special interviews. One was with the director of Case Western’s Social Justice Institute, who is drafting police reform policies in accord with the consent decree imposed by the U.S. Justice Department following their investigation of the Tamir Rice killing. Another was with a Cleveland millionaire who, with about 200 other  “patriotic millionaires” across the country, are advocating the $15 minimum wage, closing corporate loopholes and an end to Citizens United.

In all, Evan contributed a dozen pre-recorded segments to the four-day broadcast. He has already used some of them for his Columbus broadcast, Conscious Voices, on WCRS. 

A Human Habitrail

Evan described downtown Cleveland as a “human Habitrail” made up of countless metal barricades. Because of the circuitous routes people were forced to take, there were “lots of people milling around, most just trying to find their way from one place to another”:

..and when there were protests, they tended to create a good deal more congestion, and so any kind of protest immediately garnered the resentment of anyone else who was just trying to go about their business, which was unfortunate because there are a lot of messages out there that need to be heard, that were not being heard inside the Convention Center at all, and very few of these issues were being raised by the commercial media either.



Some of Evan’s assignments were more taxing than others. He described an “excruciatingly” long and loud pro-Trump rally  in the hot sun led by right-wing personality Alex Jones. He endured all that for a mere 30-second soundbite for the national broadcast. Here’s how he described the “political theater” he witnessed:

It’s as if what people were looking for there was a kind of audio crescendo, and they certainly got that when Alex Jones finally took the stage. He was the loudest shouter with the gravelliest voice and the most caustic rhetoric and it seemed like that’s what people were craving… People weren’t even desiring information or analysis. They just wanted to have their cynical egos stroked.

Pacifica’s Unique Brand of Citizen Journalism

Despite being witness to such discouraging evidence of the nation’s “dumbing down”, Evan said that he and the nine or so other Pacifica reporters remained optimistic. Mostly, they were sustained by the value of their work:

Pacifica’s brand of reporting where the reporters are free to express their own opinions and yet dutifully hesitate to do so, so as to bring people raw information and be respectful of listeners, giving them the chance to make up their own minds: that that is so rare. Most of the other outlets are either sensational or censorial or propagandistic and so we are really holding the torch for real, interactive, in-depth, honest, thorough journalism . So in the midst of all of these challenges, we have a certain pride that helps to sustain us.

candlesIn his “real life” in Columbus, Evan is a candle-maker and a potter. A prior vending engagement prevented him from reporting on this week’s Democratic convention in Philadelphia, but other citizen reporters from Pacifica affiliate stations are there, eager to hunt down the interesting stories and bring you their honest insights. Tune in to the live Pacifica broadcast from Philadelphia on Monday through Thursday evenings of this week, and join with us in celebrating the work of community radio.