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Rasha Aridi

Rasha Aridi

New Voices '23

Tell us about yourself:

I’m a Lebanese-American journalist based in Washington D.C., and I’m currently a radio producer for the weekly program Science Friday. 

For my whole life, I thought I would be a scientist, and I ended up studying wildlife conservation, which led to years full of babysitting black bear cubs, chasing lizards around a lab, and extracting DNA from some very gross liquids…until I realized I had much more fun talking about science than actually doing it. I’m really thankful that now I get to make science fun, accessible, and relevant to radio listeners. My favorite kinds of stories weave science, identity, and culture together to challenge people's perspectives of science and how it shapes our world. And of course, as a wildlife nerd, I just love stories about our planet’s strange little critters.

Outside of work, I love reading, adventuring outdoors, and trying (and failing) to walk my cat Mia.

A piece of yours or project (in any medium) that you'd like to share.

Of all the stories I’ve produced, this conversation with nature recordist and birder Juan Pablo Culasso is an all-time favorite. Juan Pablo is blind, and accessing outdoor spaces can be challenging or unsafe for folks with visual disabilities. He designed a system of accessible trails in Colombia’s cloud forests to help connect blind and low vision people with birds and nature. In this story, Juan Pablo takes us on an audio adventure on one of his trails, describing birds and accessibility design along the way. 

I love this story so much – it’s so thoughtfully hosted by science journalist Maddie Sofia, it features Juan Pablo’s beautiful bird recordings, and it fundamentally shifted how I think about accessibility in the outdoors. I almost never go back and listen to my work, but I revisit this story whenever I need a pick-me-up.

What excites you the most about being a New Voices Scholar?

I am so in awe of all the other New Voices Scholars and am so excited to be in the same cohort as them. We’ve had some really honest and earnest discussions about how we’re feeling, our work, the pressure we’re under, what scares us, etc., and it’s been really refreshing to have a space to do that with others who are in the same boat. And above all else, they make me really excited for the future of audio storytelling.

What’s playing on your radio/audio streaming service right now?

I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode of my fellow New Voices Scholar Kaitlin Armstrong’s new podcast, The Alaska Myth! It addresses settler myths and how it shaped Alaska’s history and identity, and it's already challenged a lot of what I thought I knew about Alaska. Check it out!

What’s the most underrated tool (technical or not) that you use in your creative process?

I live and die by my handwritten check lists. Even if I absolutely don’t want to finish a task on my list, I’ll do it solely for the satisfaction of aggressively crossing it off. Fancy pens make it even better.

What is something you want to see more of in the industry?

More money and job security would be nice. It’s been heartbreaking to see so many incredible shows get cut, so many people laid off in the last year, and so many stories left untold. It’s really exhausting to work in an industry that is constantly reminding us that we – and our stories – are expendable.

Who are your radio/audio inspirations and why?

Maddie Sofia and Emily Kwong! Once upon a time, they co-hosted NPR’s science podcast Short Wave together. A few years ago, I was honestly on the verge of quitting journalism until I heard their thoughtful, compassionate, joyous approach to science storytelling. I remember pausing mid-episode and thinking, “This is it – this is what I want to do.” They inspired me to pivot from writing to radio, and I ended up interning at Short Wave a little while after. Maddie, Emily, and the rest of the Short Wave team changed the course of my career and taught me what a curious, compassionate journalist should look like. I’m forever thankful they took me under their wings, I wouldn’t be doing any of this without them.

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