Just do it (yourself)

Sakura Saunders

Photo By Larry Dalton

When setting out to bring down the corporate-media colossus, it helps to be young. At age 24, Sakura Saunders is a radio host at KDVS and a producer for the nationwide Sprouts Radio project. Lately she’s been lobbying the state Legislature to decriminalize prostitution, promoting a new documentary about the recently attempted coup in Venezuela and helping to launch a new low-power community radio station in Davis. Because she just graduated from the University of California, Davis (with a degree in math and philosophy), she hopes to really get some things done. Check out Sprouts at www.sproutsradio.org, and Saunders’ show My Two Bedrooms on KDVS 90.3 FM from noon to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays.

How did you get interested in radio journalism and community radio?

I’ve been with KDVS for about six years. I’m very dedicated. Check this out [shows her KDVS tattoo]. I started as a DJ, playing peace punk and hardcore. My first show was called Sakura-core. It was kind of a play on Securicor, which is this Crass song [about a major UK-based private security company]. I was program director for three years and office/volunteer coordinator for a year.

Then you started doing radio stories and hooking up with Sprouts.

I attended the National Conference on Media Reform as part of the research for the class I teach to KDVS volunteers. I’m pretty proud of that story. It was the first story I ever did, and it took me like 50 hours of work to produce a half-hour program. If I had known, I probably wouldn’t have done it. I had no idea at the time it would be on Sprouts.

What is Sprouts Radio?

The whole idea of Sprouts is radio from the grassroots. It gives community radio stations a chance to reach a national audience. Sprouts started when we went to war in Iraq. Pacifica [radio network] started getting submissions from community radio stations around the country that were doing independent coverage of the war. Then it just started to take off on its own from there.

Since then, there’s coverage of the war. I did a show about the movement to decriminalize prostitution. There was a story recently on water privatization. This most recent one [at the end of February] was on Homeland Security encounters. It wasn’t just a debate over policy; it was actually interviewing and talking to people who had encountered Homeland Security in their daily lives.

How does Sprouts work?

Most of the Sprouts productions are collaboratively produced. For the last piece I did, on the decriminalization of prostitution, I collected sound from Canada, from the Women’s International News Gathering Service. And for a story about low-power radio, I collected sound from Florida and West Virginia. Via the Internet, we can exchange sound with other producers, and we’re able to produce stories with a national focus and national sources.

Do you have to work for a community radio station to do stories for Sprouts?

Nope. They work with community stations or independent producers. They give you the intro and outro music. They give you advice on production quality and things like that. They mentor you, so it’s great for beginning producers. It’s all for free; they can’t afford to pay you. But they do give guidance, and they give you a national audience.

Let’s talk about K-Dirt, which you are helping to get on the air.

OK. In Davis there’s a new Low Power FM (LPFM) station coming, KDRT, or K-Dirt. It’s licensed to Davis Community Television, DC-TV, the local community-access TV station. All these new low-power stations have to be licensed to nonprofit organizations, which is great. So, DC-TV has a construction permit, and they are going to go on the air by September. They are going to dedicate themselves to local issues and news you don’t hear on other radio stations. It will be 100 watts and will just cover Davis. And it will be at 101.5 FM.

It will have a smaller broadcast area. How will it be different than other community stations?

Like KDVS or KVMR [Grass Valley], it’s going to be a community radio station, so most of its programming will be community- oriented. I think it will have more public-affairs programming than KDVS does. You’ll have city-council candidates or city-council meetings covered on there. There will be programming by local Davis people, gardening or cooking shows. It’s going to be really Davis-focused. The demographic will be Davis people and whatever that community wants.

What good is Low Power FM?

I think LPFM is really exciting because it gives the opportunity for perhaps thousands more noncommercial community radio stations in the United States to emerge. Radio is ideal for noncommercial media because it’s so cheap to produce that noncommercial entities can actually compete with commercial ones. You can have a noncommercial television station, but getting somebody to watch is a different story. Having to compete with camera angles that change every two seconds and flashy multimillion-dollar productions is really difficult. Radio, on the other hand, you can produce do-it-yourself style and have it come across as relatively professional and get your point across.