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Journalism student on 2-year challenge to tune in the country

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A California journalism student is on a mission to listen to every NPR member public radio station in the country, one day at a time. He’s working his way down the list alphabetically and spent the last week listening to Alaska.

Michael Arvizu is a junior at Cal State Northridge in Southern California. He’s getting his undergraduate degree in journalism and is attempting a daunting feat.

He’s listening to every single NPR station in the United States that streams online.

He calls it his NPR challenge and at the rate of one station per day, he’s still got a long listen ahead –

“If I listen faithfully each day, and I admit it, I’ve skipped a day or two usually on the weekends—my calculation was maybe two years, more or less,” says Arvizu.

Arvizu volunteers at his local station, KCRW in Santa Monica, and thought it would be interesting to hear the differences in news and programming at smaller homegrown stations in other states.

He started a little over a month ago with Alabama.

“And then of course, Alaska was the next state on the list,” says Arvizu.

He listened alphabetically across the Last Frontier, starting in Anchorage, moving on to-among others- KYUK in Bethel, KBBI in Homer, KCAW in Sitka, KUCB in Unalaska, KCHU in Valdez and finally KSTK in Wrangell.

“These are all small stations that have their own local news coverage. It gives me an appreciation for the effort and hard work the reporters do to get the news out there to the residents,” says Arvizu.

He tunes in for morning news on his way to school and listens to newscasts and music programming on his computer at work. He uses Twitter to connect with the stations and tweeted KSTK on October 10th, or Day 30 of the challenge, to let us know he was listening thousands of miles away.

Arvizu says he was struck by the issues making headlines in Alaska.

“It’s fascinating to see how even a government shutdown can affect a state as remote as Alaska,” says Arvizu.

He lists fisheries, extreme weather, and issues facing Alaska natives as some of topics that caught his attention.

“It kind of makes me realize that yeah, there’s news happening all over the place and it’s not just here in LA that there’s major stories taking place. There’s major issues going on across the country,” says Arvizu.

He says he never really subscribed to the stereotypes of Alaska. But Alaska public radio has changed his perception of this state that’s often overpowered by its television mythos.

“Because I’ve been able to actually listen to people who have been interviewed on these stations, people who are actually residents of the respective city—I’ve been able to get a sense of what Alaska really is, more so than if I were to watch reality TV,” says Arvizu.

With two states down and a new perspective on local news, Arvizu is on to Arizona.

And he says, this first month is already making him more passionate about journalism, more informed about nationwide issues, and more dedicated to…the next two years.

You can track Arvizu’s progress on Twitter @thedjmichaelj

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