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KBBI welcomes new reporter Corinne Smith

KBBI welcomes a new reporter this week following the departure of Desiree Hagen.

Corinne Smith hails from Oakland, California, where she was a reporter and producer for KPFA Radio in Berkeley. She’s reported for radio stations in Southeast and most recently in Bristol Bay — starting as a summer reporter at KFSK in Petersburg, then at KHNS in Haines, and as a fish reporter with KDLG in Dillingham for the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report.

KBBI’s Hope McKenney sat down with Smith on Tuesday to talk about what brought her to Homer and what she’s hoping to accomplish during her time here.


CORINNE SMITH: It's been great. The last couple years actually, I've been a part of different reporting teams and public radio stations around Alaska. I first started in Petersburg at KFSK in the summer of 2020. Coming from California and KPFA radio, which is a community radio station in Berkeley, even though it was pandemic, it was before vaccines, it was pretty much hunkered down, it was an amazing summer. I dove in with stories on fisheries, on tourism, a lot of pandemic impacts. And from there, I was a reporter in Haines and the Chilkat Valley for 2021. And then most recently, I was in Dillingham with KDLG and the Bristol Bay Fisheries Report last summer. So I'm really excited to experience another part of Alaska, another community and get more experience reporting. I love radio, I love small town Alaskan culture. And just the stories up here and the opportunities are incredible. So I'm really excited to get started.

HOPE MCKENNEY: So you were most recently back home in the Bay Area. And then you just came up here yesterday. Why Homer?

SMITH: Yeah. So actually, my sort of family origin story, my Alaska family origin story starts in Homer. And that's where my dad in 1982, right after college, came up with a group of buddies and they drove up to Homer from California for a summer to work in the cannery. And I heard about that trip and that summer, kind of growing up as a kid. My dad always talked about it. And so a couple years ago, the job opportunity came up to report in Alaska. I was like, “That sounds great.” And so that was sort of the draw for me and the adventure seed was planted there. But he came up for a summer, landed in Homer after driving the ALCAN highway in his buddy's pickup truck.

They arrived in Homer, got to the beach and the cannery and they said, “Great, you're here. The season doesn't start for a month.” So they camped on the beach, met a lot of people, traveled around, then started working in the cannery, it was $5 an hour back then. My dad had the 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift. So it was hard work. And after 10 days, he quit. He found a better job and got out of there. But Homer stayed in his mind, and so he actually got a job driving trucks in Denali, and had a great summer up there. So it's really fun to be back here and I’m really excited to get to know the community and start reporting.

MCKENNEY: So you've been in a number of communities as a reporter in Alaska. What types of stories are you hoping to tell? What beats do you want to cover?

SMITH: Well, I really love local news and public radio serving Alaska communities. I like stories that have an impact, public affairs, city government, schools, environmental reporting, and then just those really unique Alaska breaking news stories. I've done, you know, plane crashes and Coast Guard reports. But also, yeah, just really covering the ways that people are involved in their community, coming up with local solutions, figuring out complex public policy and explaining that for the listeners. I just really enjoy Alaska stories and being in a small community and being on the news team for the community. It feels like a public service. And to make people feel connected. I think that's what public radio does, especially in rural Alaska, it makes people feel connected to their own communities.

MCKENNEY: So we've talked a little bit about the reporting. What else are you looking forward to in Homer?

SMITH: I'm really looking forward to getting out on the water. I would love to go fishing. I love hiking. When spring break up happens, I love running. You'll probably see me on the road or the trails. I love trail running. Also for the local art scene, see some theater, get to know people, see music. I'm just really looking forward to meeting people here.

MCKENNEY: So you came here yesterday and you're going to be a temporary reporter with us. You're going to be here till sometime this summer. We don't know when. What's next?

SMITH: Yeah, so I'm really excited to be back in Alaska for these next few months. I'm actually planning to go back to school, to journalism school for Investigative Reporting, in order to sort of sharpen those skills. How to build and sort of develop these bigger, deeper accountability, investigative projects. So I'm pretty excited about that. I spent time this winter applying to journalism school. And I have a lot of sort of daily reporting experience with daily news stories. And so I'm excited to go back to school and hone those skills for those bigger, deeper dives.

MCKENNEY: Well, is there anything else I should have asked you or you'd like to share?

SMITH: I would say feel free to send me story ideas. My email is on the website. And I would love to hear from listeners about what you want me to cover, what questions you have, what topics you want me to dive into and what you'd like to hear about because I am here for the community and to report news that matters to people. So I'd love to hear from you.

In 2019, Hope moved to Unalaska/Dutch Harbor to work for Alaska's Energy Desk and KUCB — the westernmost public radio newsroom in the country. She has lived, worked and filed stories from California, New York, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba and Alaska.
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