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Soundside With Libby Denkmann 
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Credit: KUOW's Soundside host Libby Denkmann

Meet Libby Denkmann, host of KUOW’s new show Soundside

Starting on Monday, KUOW is going to sound very different if you tune in during the noon hour. That's when our new midday show Soundside will make its debut. Libby Denkmann is the host. She talked with KUOW’s Kim Malcolm about her back story and what listeners can expect from the show.

Kim Malcolm: Tell us about your path to KUOW.

Libby Denkmann: I have been a producer and a reporter in Seattle covering local news. Most recently, I was in Los Angeles. I covered Southern California politics, the 2020 election, and the statewide recall election. I am a newsperson with roots here in the Pacific Northwest. I grew up in Redmond. I went to the University of Washington. I was born at Swedish Hospital on First Hill. I am as local as it gets.

Let's talk about Soundside. What is the show about?

This is a show about the Pacific Northwest and the people who call it home. It's as simple as that. We want to introduce you to neighbors, and be a place where you can gather and have that community sounding board feel that I think a lot of people are missing in this day and age when we're really siloed off in a lot of ways.

You say neighborhoods, but I don't think you're just talking about being Seattle-focused, right?

That's right. We want to be all over the state. We love old-style call-in radio. That's where I started as a producer. We want to have folks from all over calling in and participating and to get outside of the studio to meet people where they are.

We just went up to Leavenworth for a story on how tourist towns are faring in the pandemic. Because we were there in person, we were able to meet Shay, a bookstore employee who shared her personal experience dealing with the housing crisis in Leavenworth. She talked about dealing with homelessness, even as she was helping make tourists with money to spend feel comfortable.

That's where we're coming from. We want to hear from everyone in the Pacific Northwest, across Washington. We really want this to be a community-centric show.

I want to shout out the excellent producers who are making this show with you: Sarah Leibovitz, Brandi Fullwood, Alec Cowen, and Noel Gasca.

In addition to those good people, the KUOW Soundside page says "Help us make the show." I understand you're trying to build a listener network. Tell me about that.

We are. We want this show to feel participatory. We want it to be a place to gather and share your stories. The audience is very much a part of building Soundside. With that in mind, we have a listener texting network. It's a tool that we can use to ask for your feedback about story ideas, how we're doing as a show, and to find subjects for future interviews.

I promise we will not be bombarding you with messages. Two to three times a week we’ll ask for things like questions for Mayor Bruce Harrell. We're going to talk to him next week, in fact. That's the kind of thing we are hoping to connect with our listeners on. You can go to kuow.org/soundside to learn how to join the texting network. I really encourage as many folks as possible to hop on there.

It's been a year since the siege on the U.S. Capitol. A lot of that anger is fueled by misinformation and lies, which is something that we've been covering here at KUOW. This does feel like a critical moment to be a journalist. How do you see our role when democracy itself seems to be in peril?

I take this role incredibly seriously. I think that January 6 should serve as a wake-up call to public media journalism. I believe in the past we have been guilty of both-sidesism, and soft-peddling some of the really egregious lies from the early days of the Trump administration. This is a model, public radio, that does not rely on outrage. We are able to focus on story, to focus on truth. We don't have to focus on ratings. I believe that we should take that role and use it for good.

I am not afraid to say that I have a pro-democracy bias as the host of Soundside, and I am committed to learning from our past missteps as journalists, and informing the public so that we can keep our democracy safe from these very real threats.

I'm proud to hear you say that and I stand with you. I'm looking forward to tons of great conversations with real people from around here in the days ahead.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.