Finding fascinating people

    One of my favorite sections in Raising Arizona Kids magazine is Vicki Louk Balint’s “A Conversation with….” These monthly, Q & A-format interviews feature local people who significantly impact the lives of children and families in our community in areas like health, sports, education and the arts.

    But the print version is just part of the story. Vicki also produces podcasts from these interviews, which we broadcast on our Web site under the RAK Radio brand and also on iTunes. In these podcasts, Vicki delves into areas above and beyond the topics she covers in print. And listening to these conversations offers a broader dimension to understanding some pretty fascinating people. Hearing them laugh, sigh — even hesitate before they answer — offers nuances you just can’t get when you’re reading the words in print.

    Vicki first ventured into podcasting as she was completing her master’s degree at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications. As the passionate parent of four children, she immediately saw the benefits such a medium could bring to Raising Arizona Kids.

    Bebe May, 2007.

    Vicki launched RAK Radio in March 2007, with an interview featuring camping icon Bebe May, whose family founded Prescott’s Friendly Pines Camp. As soon as I heard Vicki’s podcast, I was hooked on the format. It was both enlightening and fun to hear Bebe’s own voice as she reflected on a lifetime devoted to sharing the overnight camping experience with generations of Arizona children. Vicki is one of the best interviewers I know and she always manages to extract interesting nuggets of information from her subjects.

    So how does Vicki decide who to interview? That’s often a subject of discussion at content-planning meetings. Usually she’s got a long list of possibilities. (She and I often laugh about the “story of our lives”: Too many ideas, too little time!)

    Sometimes something completely unexpected drops into her lap.

    That’s what happened with this month’s podcast featuring Maricopa County medical examiner Etoi Davenport, M.D. Vicki and I attended a Fall Festival hosted last September by Arizona Sunrays and Hubbard Family Swim School. We were working on a video Q&A about the H1N1 vaccine; Bob Hubbard and Julie Witenstein graciously allowed us to conduct “man on the street”-type interviews with some of the many parents who attended their event.

    Etoi Davenport, M.D. (center) with her sister-in-law, her daughter and her husband.

    Not everyone wanted to go on camera, of course. Etoi Davenport, who was at the event with her sister-in-law and her daughter, was one who politely declined. But we learned, as we talked with her, that she has an interesting and unusual career. As a medical examiner for Maricopa County, Davenport is something of a “CSI Mom.” That got Vicki’s interest.

    So how does a mom who spends much of her day around dead people explain her job to her young daughter? Listen to RAK Radio to find out.