Audio Astra: Kansans taking down Asian stereotypes, training cybersecurity specialists (Column)

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Note: The Lawrence Times runs opinion columns written by community members with varying perspectives on local issues. Occasionally, we’ll also pick up columns from other nearby news outlets. These pieces do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Times staff.

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Audio Astra reviews recent audio reporting on Kansas news, including podcasts and radio stories. Eric Thomas directs the Kansas Scholastic Press Association and teaches visual journalism and photojournalism at the University of Kansas.

Suzanne Perez / Kansas News Service

It’s been an incredibly rich week for audio reporting in Kansas. Many episodes didn’t make it into Audio Astra this week, including recent installments from the Kansas Farm Bureau, K-State Research and Extension, the Kansas Principals Association and an update on entertainment at the Wichita Riverfest.

This week’s Kansas Reflector Podcast is a 12-minute interview with Joe Brentano, coordinator at the Kansas Capitol Visitor’s Center. After public tours paused during the pandemic, we hear about some highlights visitors will experience when tours resume on June 14.

“Roger Shimomura’s Takedown Of Asian Stereotypes”
KCUR’s “Real Humans,” June 6

The mix of reporting, storytelling, interviews and reflection makes Gina Kaufmann’s most recent installment of “Real Humans” a great listen. She weaves together a timely portrait of the Lawrence artist and University of Kansas educator Roger Shimomura. While Shimomura no longer does interviews for radio, Kaufman describes his paintings, pulls from previous interviews and talks to his close friend Marty Olson in Lawrence. Her story connects the current animosity toward Asian Americans to Shimomura’s work: pop art that focuses on how Asian Americans have long been being treated as “other” in America.

After listening, I fell into an epic wormhole. I clicked through Shimomura’s art on the Spencer Museum’s website to see his famous works that document his time at what many call the American “internment camps” of World War II. (Shimomura calls them “incarceration camps.“) I visited his exhibition in Seattle — vividly displayed online — which blends images of American pop culture with imagery of Japanese and Asian culture. His work brilliantly shows how an oppressive American gaze can create tension for anyone seen as Asian.

Kaufmann describes that tension so thoughtfully here. Narrating his biography, she describes an earlier time when his Japanese identity was not central as: “his experience as an American, with no hyphen.”

“He’s fought very very hard to straighten things out, specially with Caucasian America,” says his friend Marty Olson. “I think it’s been a constant battle for him.”

Even without Shimomura’s contemporary voice, the episode introduces his work and explains its timely relevance to this moment when so many of us are focusing on combating Asian hate.

“Wichita Looking To Be Part Of The Solution In Training More Cybersecurity Professionals”
KMUW’s The Range, June 4

As President Biden used the bully pulpit and took action on cybersecurity, many podcasts have been covering corporate hacking. KMUW’s The Range interviewed Ashley Scheideman of FlagshipKansas.Tech, who explained how companies in the heartland are hoping to attract and retain IT experts. These workers might be at the digital front lines of crises such as the ones that knee-capped Colonial Pipeline and JBS meats.

These cyber attacks aren’t just creating chaos in executive boardrooms. They’re causing some of the first disruptions to American consumers, who’ve waited in line for gasoline and rushed to purchase meat in response to the cyber-shutdowns of the gas and beef supply companies.

Scheideman makes the case that the Wichita area is training qualified tech workers, which attracts companies to the area. And these turn out to be the workers who will secure our ever-expanding digital lives from hackers and ransom.

“Conversations: Ron Gonen, ‘The Waste-Free World: How the Circular Economy Will Take Less, Make More, and Save the Planet’ ”
KPR’s Conversations, June 7

Here’s a smart piece of visual language that I hope catches on: “The Circular Economy.” In an interview with KPR, Ron Gonen aims to discard the old model of a linear economy where extractive industries pull resources from the earth to be used and then trashed. “We take, we make, we use, we dispose and we pollute,” is how host Dan Skinner summarizes Gonen’s view on the current economy and its supply chain.

Gonen’s book cites how hospitals used — and reused — protective equipment during the pandemic. As the global supply chain “cracked” under the stress of producing so much equipment, innovators asked whether protective equipment really had to be discarded after a single use. Couldn’t it be sanitized and re-used? Gonen reports that this circular approach did work, providing more of the desperately needed medical protective equipment.

The phrase “circular economy” immediately made me think of recycling. Gonen points to efficiency in recycling programs such as New York City’s use of paper recycling to make pizza boxes that go right back into the communities that recycled the paper. He also suggests a couple of futuristic ideas: Using artificial intelligence and robotics to more cheaply sort recycled goods. And — brace yourself — using discarded food waste in your home to create natural gas that would power your grill, kitchen range or hot water heater.

What did we miss? Email to let us know of a Kansas-based audio program that would be interesting to Audio Astra readers.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news outlets supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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