Earlier this summer, KSTK said farewell to June Leffler, who after more than two years, departed ‘the rock’ to return to Louisville, Kentucky. She did great work here. Now, the island’s public radio station is pleased to welcome Sage Smiley who comes to us via KDLG in Dillingham. For the past two summers she covered the sockeye salmon fishery in Bristol Bay. She’ll be living and working in Wrangell for the foreseeable, covering the community for KSTK and the wider region through CoastAlaska. Her stories will also be shared with the Alaska’s public radio network and its member stations. On her first day of the job she sat down for a quick interview to help the community get acquainted with her while she gets acquainted with the community.

CoastAlaska: What kind of reporting did you do before you came to Wrangell?

Sage Smiley: I started out in radio when I was 19, working as a production assistant. That job was what made me want to work in radio. I got to do all sorts of things there: vox pops, writing and producing radio dramas, live radio theater, little radio postcards, daily news production. I officially decided I wanted to be a radio reporter when I went to Bethel a few years ago at the beginning of January to visit some family and volunteer at the K300. I met a whole slew of Alaska radio reporters with hand warmers strapped to their cell phones, standing on the frozen lake and covering this totally batty dog sled race live, and sort of fell in love. This is all sort of the background. I’ve worked in two main parts of journalism: public radio in rural Alaska, and long-form investigative journalism focusing on Syria. Very polar opposite fields to be working in. And now I’m here, doing more in Alaska, which I’m massively psyched about.

CoastAlaska: Where did you grow up and get your education?

Sage Smiley: I was born on the south side of Chicago, jumped around with my Navy-employed family for a while when I was younger, and settled in Portland, Oregon for middle and high school. I went to college in Utah, where I studied Arabic, Broadcast Journalism (majors) & Chemistry (a minor). My university didn’t have a radio major, so I studied TV production, which I … had a complicated relationship with, let’s say. I lived for my job, where I got to do the kind of journalism I actually wanted to be doing. 

After I graduated, I got a graduate-level Arabic fellowship, so I lived last year and the beginning of this year in Amman, Jordan, where I also worked with an Arabic podcasting company. Most recently, I’m coming from KDLG reporting on the commercial fishing season.

CoastAlaska: What gets you excited about community journalism?

Sage Smiley: It’s a big responsibility, to be the lone broadcast watchdog, the one radio reporter in the community, but it’s a vital part of a functioning community and democracy. I’m making it sound a little too grand, maybe, it involves a lot of calling around and web searching and talking to people and listening in on meetings and writing up things. It’s not glamorous, but it’s work I love and that I’m excited and honored to get to do it in Wrangell.

CoastAlaska: Tell us something else about yourself. 

Sage Smiley: I dunno … I love true crime investigative podcasts, ferries are my favorite form of transportation. Which is good since I live on an island now, I guess. And my claim to fame is that I was once an extra in a Star Wars movie.

Have a news tip? Drop a line at sage@kstk.org Or call KSTK’s newsroom at (907) 874-2345. Ask for Sage.