â€œEach story tries to capture the color, romance, pathos, and humor of New Mexico as well as the reality of the hard life that many experienced.â€
-Barb Spiegel, producer of the KSFR radio series â€œAdobe Momentsâ€
Hi, Iâ€™m Aaron Henkin, curator for the NPR Station Showcase with PRX. Every day, producers at public radio stations around the country are working to create high-quality, original programming for their local listening audiences, and on this weekly podcast we give a little extra attention to some of the best and brightest of those local stories. This week, our travels take us to KSFR in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Thatâ€™s where award-winning producer Barb Spiegel recently created a radio series called â€œAdobe Moments.â€ The series looks at the history and people of New Mexico, and it was made possible by a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council. Hereâ€™s a Q & A with Barb about her work at KSFR and whatâ€™s gone into putting the â€œAdobe Momentsâ€ series togetherâ€¦
What kind of a station is KSFR, format-wise, and what sort of locally produced programming comes out of there?
KSFR is Santa Fe’s only public radio station. It has quite an eclectic format that reflects the Santa Fe community. In addition to BBC News, KSFR has an award-winning, mostly volunteer news team which broadcasts hourly news and news magazines about northern New Mexico. In fact, KSFR is the only station in the area that produces local news. More than 70% of KSFR’s programming is locally produced by talented volunteers. The format includes jazz and other musical forms. There are daily interview programs that follow Santa Fe art, music, people and politics and are an exciting forum for cutting edge ideas. Also, there are locally produced programs on Native American interests, religion, food, politics, a program produced by and for teenagers and much more. KSFR also broadcasts the Santa Fe City Council meetings. KSFR was named Station of the Year in 2005 and 2006 by the New Mexico Associated Press.
I wonder if you might tell us about the genesis of the “Adobe Moments” series, what it aims to do and what kinds of stories you’ve included in the series.
In New Mexico, one is virtually wrapped in a long, vivid, fascinating and touching history. (Spanish settlers first came here in the late 1500!) But even here, not everybody knows their history very well. Sometimes it seems as if we Americans get more of our history from Ken Burns than any other source. I had the idea that public radio can do for history what public television has done, by offering programs such as “Adobe Moments.” I liked the idea of short, 2 and a half minute nuggets of New Mexico history presented in a concise and engaging way. The New Mexico Humanities Council and KSFR supported the idea. So far, there are 12 stories. I’ve tried to carve each story with fundamental questions in mind: “Why is this topic still alive and relevant and why should we care about this today?â€ The stories include interviews with scholars, citizens and old-timers, who know or have lived New Mexico history. Each story tries to capture the color, romance, pathos, and humor of New Mexico as well as the reality of the hard life that many experienced. Listeners get to “meet” the artists, lovers, soldiers, villains and bright spirits New Mexico has attracted. These are bigger-than-life historical figures whose creativity, fortitude and persistence are intrinsic parts of what makes New Mexico the unique place it is. The overall series includes a balance of perspectives about the people and groups who live here and the events that have carved New Mexico history. Each topic is a little gem, here are some of them: The Harvey Girls (those independent women who worked for the Harvey Houses in the late 1800s along the Santa Fe Railroad), Blackdom, New Mexico (an all black town), Building the Railroad in New Mexico, The Spanish Spoken in New Mexico (it is still like the Spanish of 16th & 17th Centuries in places), The Pueblo Revolt and Re-conquest, Slavery in New Mexico (both Indians and Blacks were sold at slave markets), World War II Internment Camps in NM, The Legacy of Los Alamos. I had help and support on the series from Dr. Frances Levine, Director of the Palace of the Governors Museum in Santa Fe (a state museum) and Dr. Estevan Rael-Galvez, New Mexico State Historian. They are key to the success of the series, for they suggested wonderful topics and great people to interview. They also checked my scripts and even star in several of the pieces! I also had wonderful support from Dal Dearmin, KSFR Station Manager, and others there. One of the important things that we tried to do was to make sure that “Adobe Moments” reached the small stations in areas of New Mexico with sparse population that are largely un-served by projects such as this. “Adobe Moments” was made available free to all the public stations in New Mexico.
What surprised you most about what you’ve learned of the cultural history of New Mexico since you started putting this series together?
I found that history is always more than a charming echo in New Mexico. In fact, it is a very big deal, indeed! It still plays an important part in so many issues in every community here, from water rights to land grants issues.
The installments in the “Adobe Moments” series are very short, succinct pieces of radioâ€¦Is it tough to tell a comprehensive story in two and a half minutes?
That is the challenge. You can actually present quite a lot in two and a half minutes. It forces you to tell the bones of the story and the truth of the story very clearly. That is the craft of doing this work.
KSFR producer Barb Spiegel is the creator of the â€œAdobe Momentsâ€ radio series. You can hear more stories form the series online at The Public Radio Exchange. Thatâ€™s where producers from around the world share their work. Log on, write your own reviews and help influence what ends up on the radio at www.prx.org.