NAJA Member Profile, Rose Aguilar: Native radio host awarded ‘2017 Most Valuable Local Radio Show’

by Sarah Liese

Rose Aguilar, photo by Sue BlankmanWhile on vacation, Rose Aguilar (Pomo/Paiute), host of ‘Your Call,’ received an email that her journalistic reporting gained recognition. The Nation Magazine awarded her San Francisco public-radio station KALW the “2017 Most Valuable Local Radio Show.” The award reassured Aguilar that her work was having an effect on her listeners.

Your Call” focuses on politics, social issues, the arts and the environment. Aguilar acknowledged how important it is to go right to the source. She mentioned that it’s easy to go to the same people over and over again, but then grassroots activists and people with unique and important stories to share do not receive a microphone to amplify their voices.

“We don’t just bring on authors and politicians like so many other shows do,” Aguilar said. “We bring on people who are directly impacted by policies or are working for change. That’s why I’ve been hosting this show for so long.”  

Aguilar noted that the another rewarding part of her career is her team’s ability to spend an hour on a topic. She also relished the impact that people on the ground have in solving issues.

“Connected to Native issues, I went to Standing Rock twice and broadcasted live from a public radio station in Bismarck, North Dakota,” Aguilar said. “We brought on a wide range of activists-older younger; people who’ve been involved for many, many years and people who’ve never been to action before. Listeners really appreciated hearing a conversation between different generations.”

KALW is a mainstream station and Aguilar has been the host since 2006. She hopes to continue shining a light on injustice and spend more time on Native issues. She believes that those who are in positions like her have a responsibility to bring on a wide range of voices that are rarely heard in the national dialogue.

“This is why diversity in the media is so important; We all bring our own experiences to the table,” Aguilar said. “I bring Native issues to our editorial meetings. My colleagues are more than interested in doing those shows, but they might not bring those ideas to the table.”

After the 2005 election, Aguilar was tired of the political conversation and decided to leave her California bubble to find out about what life was like for people living in the so-called “red states.” She spent six months interviewing a wide range of people about healthcare, wages, education, and more. She wrote about her experience in Red Highways: A Journey into the Heartland.

Aguilar has been a NAJA member for five years, and she hopes to continue to write more, specifically on Native issues. She also plans on being a NAJA mentor to uplift Native journalists and show them the importance of using their voices to inform others about Native American issues.

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