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New youth podcast launches in Ketchikan

January 19, 2019
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In this Jan. 9, 2019, photo, John Bruce and Austin Otos, creators and hosts of "KTown: A Youth Podcast," pose for photos outside of KRBD-FM studio in Ketchikan, Alaska. The podcast is affiliated with Ketchikan Youth Initiatives. It is recorded and edited at the KRBD-FM studio, and editions are planned to be posted on the radio station's website and the podcast's Facebook site as well as on various social media platforms. (Dustin Safranek/Ketchikan Daily News via AP)

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) — Ketchikan’s young people have a new venue to make their voices heard, with “KTown: A Youth Podcast.”

In the premiere episode released Friday, listeners were led through a dizzying array of topics by podcasters Jefferson Barry, Hiro Fifield, Nathaniel Johnson, Caleb Strait and Evan Yoder. The podcast was led by host Austin Otos, of Ketchikan Youth Court, and co-host, Americorp Vista Ketchikan Youth Initiatives volunteer John Bruce.

The podcast is affiliated with Ketchikan Youth Initiatives. It is recorded and edited at the KRBD-FM studio, and editions are planned to be posted on the radio station’s website and the podcast’s Facebook site as well as on various social media platforms.

Friday’s episode began with introductions and a discussion of each participant’s goals for the podcast series.

Otos described his vision.

“I really see this as a mini platform for youth to come together and discuss controversial topics, or just local events that are going on. I’d like to just broadcast through the airwaves that youth message; to really empower them,” he said.

Bruce, who in college was a philosophy major with a focus on ethics and diversity, expressed his vision for the style of debate in the podcasts, with open dialogue and much discussion in which the truth and wisdom of a topic could be drawn out.

“I would love it to not only be a platform for community discussion and professional development, but I’d like it to also instill the Socratic method into Ketchikan culture,” Bruce said.

Bruce said he wants the humor that the group naturally engages in and the participants’ insights on controversial topics to shine through.

Otos said the idea for a youth podcast came from Ketchikan Youth Initiatives Administrator Bobbie McCreary.

“I thought it was just genius,” Otos said, “because I’ve always wanted a platform for youth to come and really speak their minds.”

Otos added that it always had been a goal of his, to find ways to fight against the old idea that young people should not “speak until spoken to.”

Otos emphasized that the podcast will cover such broad topics — some controversial and broad reaching — that the episodes will be interesting for adults as well as young people. Participants in the podcasts will vary, and special guests will be featured in some.

Ketchikan Youth Court, where Otos has worked for many years, has collaborated many times with Ketchikan Youth Initiatives, Otos said, so working together on the podcast seemed natural.

Bruce, who is working with KYI to reorganize and revitalize the organization, said the podcast is one part of his plan to improve KYI’s ability to serve Ketchikan’s youth. Not only is he working to create a sustainable funding plan, but he also is focused on increasing the transparency of the organization’s operations.

“My role is going to be public relations, community outreach, program development,” Bruce said.

The KYI organization has created a skate park and a paintball venue, and has been working to finish its Community Youth Center on Park Avenue for many years. Bruce said the Youth Center is a huge part of what he’s pushing to finish, with a grand opening by late February.

Bruce moved to Ketchikan on Oct. 13, and started working with KYI a month later, jumping in to learn as much as possible about the organization and to solve the challenges it’s been facing. He also has a broader vision for his role in town.

“I’m not here just to serve KYI,” Bruce said. “I’m here to serve Ketchikan as a community” by getting out and volunteering in many areas.

Bruce is working on the KYI website, as well as creating a page on the Patreon website, where people can go to learn about an organization or artist and sign up to donate to them as well.

“I want it to be accessible,” Bruce said. “I want to build that culture in Ketchikan that everyone can give one dollar a month — 12 bucks a year — and that would be enough to make the program a huge success.”

In Friday’s premiere podcast, attendees introduced themselves, ribbed each other and laughed a lot.

Johnson mentioned how he is willing to act like “a professional idiot” to elicit laughs, adding that he also is “sometimes smart, sometimes philosophical and other times — hungry.”

Strait mentioned his interest in promoting the art shop at the Community Youth Center.

The youngest podcaster in Friday’s episode, Jefferson Barry, said that the paintball team and the Dungeons and Dragons game nights were very important KYI activities for him.

As the premiere episode rolled forward on Dec. 10, 2018, the participants pinballed from one topic to another, from the role of swearing in society, to spaghetti squash, the description of Dungeons and Dragons gaming, politics, pseudoscience, the ethics of incarceration, the role of war in global relations, wars over potatoes and bananas, teleportation, attacking ostriches and the podcasters’ most dreamed-of inventions.

To wrap up the episode, each podcaster offered their final thoughts and were given a chance to promote a cause or organization they believe in.

Johnson had advice for listeners of “KTown: A Youth Podcast.”

“I want to say a warning, like, don’t come to this and expect to hear your exact opinion,” he said, adding, “Come into this with an open mind, rather than a closed one, and just sit back and enjoy it overall.”

Barry stated that the podcast was fun to be a part of, before the conversation briefly veered back to teleportation and the risk of creating black holes.

Bruce admitted to the group that he was happily surprised.

“This turned out way better than I even thought,” he said. “I’m just happy.”

Otos summed up by promoting his organization, Ketchikan Youth Court and its goal of using restorative justice, as well as its collaborative work with KYI.

Bruce and Otos both shared their enthusiasm for the fresh vision for Ketchikan Youth Initiatives and its youth center, which soon will finally be fully functional after years of work.

Bruce said that the art shop, industrial kitchen, pool table, stage for performances, room for classes and space for informal social gatherings will be a very positive resource for local youth.

“There’s going to be a whole new focus,” Bruce said.

Bruce also invited adults in the community to volunteer as youth mentors.

“Get involved — it’s fun,” he said.

“KTown: A Youth Podcast” episodes are scheduled to be aired at 9 p.m. on KRBD, on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.


Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News, http://www.ketchikandailynews.com