Q & A with Steve Klamkin

Steve Klamkin – Submitted photo

You certainly need no introduction to the radio and online audiences of NewsTalk 99.7 & AM 630 WPRO. Still, how about giving us an overview of your responsibilities? 

Primarily, I report stories in the field, and prepare reports for the hourly news, and also anchor newscasts in the afternoons, from 3-6 P.M. We respond to breaking news, which happens at all hours, and can include inclement weather, so we’re ready to go… as needed. 

 You report on the news, which of course is a constantly changing stream of stories. Do you have a favorite type of story that you report? 

I love it all. News is whatever is ‘out of the ordinary’, and I’m often on the lookout for that. From breaking stories like fires and floods to shootings and ribbon-cuttings, I do whatever is needed to let people know what’s going on in the community. 

A least favorite?

Some stories get a little repetitive, I get the feeling that ‘I’ve been here and done this before,’ but I try to put myself in a position to learn what’s new. 

 What would you rate as the top Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts stories of 2023? 

 I think housing and homelessness, or the lack of housing was a top story in 2023. Coming out of the 2020 pandemic pointed out the struggles of people out of work ,or working minimally being able to afford a decent place to live. We also had a special election for Congress in 2023, something that’s very rare, and brought us a lot of potential candidates to sift through.  Local responses to the Hamas attack on Israel also proved to be a top story. 

 The state and country are now in the endemic stage of COVID, but you and I, like many reporters, covered the pandemic from the start. I have many memories of seeing you at press conferences during the worst days. Tell us about the demands of that coverage – and also, your personal feelings during that long siege. 

At the start of the pandemic, like many businesses, our radio station closed, and all but a skeleton crew staffed the station… almost all of us worked from home. In-person events were almost non-existent for a time, briefings and other events were held online, and we became adept at covering them from home. We produced stories and newscasts from home. Our company also implemented ‘furlough days’ to avoid layoffs, and we made that work. Before too long, we were back out covering stories in person. For a time, I thought I’d be lucky to survive the pandemic, but have so far managed to avoid contracting COVID, despite working through it, covering most of the state briefings which took place on a near-daily basis. 

Leaving aside breaking news, which can never be predicted, do you have any sense of what the big stories of 2024 will be? 

 News is what’s new, and often surprising, and that’s what makes it news, so it’s tough to make a prediction. That said, 2024 is an election year, and that’s often interesting. Will the Red Sox get to the World Series? Will the Patriots get back to the Super Bowl? Those are among the questions that makes life interesting. 

 Give us some of your background, including where you grew up, what college you attended and when you became interested in journalism – broadcast journalism specifically. 

I initially went off to Boston University to try my hand at photojournalism, and spent a year shooting for the daily student newspaper, the Daily Free Press. My second year rolled around, and my cameras were stolen from my dorm room. While waiting for an insurance settlement, I learned about the campus radio station, WTBU… tried my hand at becoming a disc jockey… and never had so much fun. And, never looked back. I also did some ‘rip and read’ newscasting, and went out with a (tape) recorder to do some field reporting.  Soon, I became a ‘board operator’ for the BU FM station, WBUR-FM, then went on to do some reporting, and loved it. 

So how did you wind up in the Ocean State? 

After BU, I worked in radio stations in Vermont, Fall River and New Bedford, and did some freelance reporting before coming to Providence. 

You and your wife have long been involved in the Miss America pageant. Tell us about that. 

My wife has been involved in the Miss Massachusetts program, and runs the Teen program there. I’m just along for the ride. It happens the Miss America pageant was held at the Mohican Sun resort for the last few years, and I took the opportunity to report on the Rhode Island and Massachusetts participants, and got to interview the winners. 

You also cover the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals.  

Long a jazz fan, I once attended the Newport Jazz Festival back in the mid 1980’s, I remember seeing artists like Sarah Vaughan, Herbie Hancock and Freddie Hubbard. Life ensued, and it wasn’t until 2010 when my station had some tickets to the Festival, and I remember thinking, “Why have I been missing this all of these years?”. I resolved to come back to cover it for WPRO, and I’ve been doing that ever since, picking up my camera along the way to provide interviews and photos of artists. 

In about 2016, I wanted to see what the Newport Folk Festival was all about (it’s held the weekend before the Jazz Festival, also at Fort Adams in Newport.) I love all kinds of music, and learned a lot about some of the artists I’d never thought about seeing or listening to, and now I’m a fan of forms of music I’d never considered before, such as alternative rock, folk and bluegrass. 

We happen to be big fans of Lana Del Rey, who performed last summer at the Newport Folk Festival. On stage, she revealed her ties to Rhode Island. Can you fill us in on what they are? 

During her performance, she told the crowd that her father was from Newport, and she had relatives buried in Barrington. I also happen to know that she has some relatives who still live in Rhode Island.  

 Looking back to the start of your career, what have been some of the most important changes in journalism? 

Like most other fields, we’re all doing more with less. Newspapers lost one of their major sources of income with the drying up of classified advertising to the Internet, and they were less able to maintain large staffs of reporters. Relieved of the need and expense of felling forests of trees, most publications went online, publishers discovered paywalls, and in many cases, that still hasn’t stopped the bleeding. 

Like publications, radio and TV stations have consolidated to the point that there are very few corporations that own tremendous numbers of publications and broadcast outlets. What once was a fairly diverse media landscape, has become very homogeneous. 

The ranks of journalists have been pared considerably, many fled to public relations jobs, which invariably offer better pay and better hours. I tried that once, and found it wasn’t for me. 

Again, no one has a crystal ball, but what’s your sense of the future? 

I’m sure we’ll see further consolidation in the media world, I fear that we may see more fractures in society before we start to come together again. Truth is still worth fighting for.  When it comes to reporting, there’s nothing like being there. You’ve got to tell it like you see it, or why try telling it at all?