From Humboldt to NPR: Alum's Journey to Telling Impactful Stories

May, 2023
 Ashley Locke is a Senior Producer at NPR’s Here and Now radio magazine, producing stories about issues affecting women and children

As a Senior Producer for NPR and WBUR Boston's "Here and Now," a news magazine program, Ashley Bailey Locke ('10, Journalism) is living her dream of telling impactful stories. Catching the journalism bug early, she spent time writing inspirational stories about girls in male-dominated auto body shop classes and about teachers who survived cancer for her high school newspaper.

Catapulting from her high school paper into Cal Poly Humboldt’s student-run publications and radio station, Locke honed her storytelling skills. She attributes the jump-start of her journalism career to the practical, experiential learning she received at Humboldt. The hands-on experience and one-on-one relationships she developed with her professors at Humboldt gave her an advantage.

“I walked away from Humboldt with dozens of news clips in my portfolio to show. Humboldt is a community-minded space where everyone wants to help each other succeed,” Locke says. “My time at Humboldt was an experience that I probably wouldn’t have had at a bigger institution.”
Locke, an Arcata native, attended Cal Poly Humboldt after high school in 2006. As a Humboldt student, she joined The Lumberjack newspaper, impressing journalism professor and the publication’s faculty advisor Professor Marcy Burstiner to bypass prerequisites and start reporting.

At The Lumberjack, Locke covered campus protests at the quad and wrote stories she was proud of. At one point, she says she almost quit because of the harsh but constructive criticisms from Burstiner, who’d critique each issue of the paper weekly. Burstiner told Locke she did so because she saw so much in her potential as a journalist.

Soon after, Locke joined the student-run radio station KRFH and began her journey into radio journalism to diversify the mediums she used to tell stories.

In a radio news production class with then Cal Poly Humboldt’s KRFH advisor and lecturer Zoe Walrond and a radio production class with current KRFH advisor Cliff Berkowitz, Locke learned to transform long news articles into thirty-second and one-minute succinct segments on the radio and learned to edit audio—skills she took with her to public radio internships in Los Angeles and her job at NPR’s “Here and Now.”

As a senior producer for “Here and Now,” Ashley records and edits audio used on air, writes scripts for hosts, vets, finds, and books guests for the program. She’s responsible for ensuring the host has all the information they need to tell meaningful stories. She produces dynamic stories that shine a light on childcare and education issues, prioritizing points of view from women and underrepresented groups.

“Women are misrepresented in news stories. I love being able to take the extra time and intention to feature their perspectives on some of the most timely issues of our lives,” Locke says. “They have valuable opinions to share, and I love helping them feel heard, respected, and valued—especially when women’s human rights are under attack in so many ways now.”

Locke hopes her work as a producer creates more equity in the news stories people read to inform the decisions they make in their lives.

“Young people are always watching and listening. When they see women and women of color treated with respect and consulted as experts in the news, it shows that their voices and the issues impacting their lives are urgent. They matter.”

Photo: Ashley Locke is a Senior Producer at NPR’s Here and Now radio magazine, producing stories about issues affecting women and children.