One of the most-apocalyptic images from California latest round of fires is flames glowing from inside a tree trunk inside California’s first state park. It seems outlandish, even demonic.

In fact, it’s so routine that there’s a name for the hollow space a fire leaves in the base of a coastal redwood: a goose pen. Early anglo-American settlers used the abundant cavities to shelter their livestock. Most redwoods with goose pens are still alive.

Goose pen in Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve. Photo: Brian Edwards-Tiekert

From the perspective of a redwood grove, a fire is not terribly threatening. The trees have an arsenal of defenses: high levels of tannin, a…


Right-wing rally in Berkeley on August 27: All camera, no rally. Photo: Brian Edwards-Tiekert

I live and work in Berkeley, California. We’ve become a top destination for fringe-right groups hoping to raise their profile by provoking controversy (and street fighting). Here is some advice for journalists covering similar events:

  1. Figure out if they’re serious

Some of the fringe-right actors come out of an online trolling subculture that celebrates a well-executed hoax. Exhibit 1: This non-shutdown of the Golden Gate Bridge:

This same action was initially reported by several broadcasters and one newspaper as a legitimate political action. …


How your radio newsroom should think about smart speakers and digital assistants, and how two non-developers built a product on one

by Gabriel Spitzer and Brian Edwards-Tiekert

By the end of 2017, there will be an estimated 36 million active users of “smart speakers”: devices that aspire to become voice-controlled middleman between their users, The Internet, and Everything That Can be Connected to The Internet. Among the first applications they steer their users toward: asking for news or music — which also positions them squarely between radio producers and our audiences. In Stanford’s John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship, we’ve been…


Local media and the Age of Trump

The Sunday after election day, the New York Times datelined its front-page election postmortem in Massillon, Ohio. The story had the familiar elements of election-year ethnography: a family divided by politics, a voter who’d swung from Obama to Trump, and a hot take from a former local newspaper editor (“People feel despair when they hear that the economy is getting better but their own personal economy is not.”)

There’s a very clear question driving stories like this: How did our pollsters and analysts get this race so wrong? But there’s a very obvious…

Brian Edwards-Tiekert

Radio journalist @kpfa, co-hosting weekdays 7–9a. Recently @JSKstanford. Twitter: @bedwardstiek. More active on FB: https://www.facebook.com/bedwardstiek

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