Announcing: Learn from Legends Fellows

Six AIRsters have been selected to work with seasoned producers this summer as Learn from Legends Fellows. Each storymaker has been paired with a legend from the AIR network, and will work on a project of their choice over the next three months. AIR’s legends are reporters, producers, and writers who have honed their craft for decades and they want to share their knowledge.

One-on-one mentorships have been a part of AIR’s programming for over 20 years, but this brings in a new focus. The legends in this round have won the top radio awards and have been part of public radio firsts. Collaboration is the essence of our network. We hope Learn from Legends will forge bonds that become life-long relationships, as is the case with many of AIR’s one-on-one mentorships.

The pairs are kicking off the Fellowship by making an introductory plan together, and AIR is pleased to provide sneak peeks of the preliminary project plans that some pairs have shared with us:

Rebecca Lee Douglas and Heidi Chang
Rebecca: “I will be working with public radio legend Heidi Chang to editorially hone my independent podcast and to develop marketing strategies for the show.”

Allison Hausman and Sandra Rattley
Allison: “We will develop a clear and concise description of the goal of the podcast, the intended audience, how it will be structured (both as a series and each episode), short descriptions of the women’s stories that will be profiled, and a proposal for how it will be a means to inspire broader political engagement. We will also document possible funders and potential organizations that could use the podcast to further their mission.”

Maria Murriel and Dmae Roberts
Maria: “During this mentorship, I’ll work with Dmae to structure and research a large storytelling project that’s part family history, part criminal justice documentary. I grew up in 1990s Peru, where my childhood was punctuated by the car bombs and blackouts of the unofficial war between the government and the guerrillas of the Shining Path. One of my uncles was a doctor in the prison system, treating convicts of this conflict, seeing some of its most damaged people at their most vulnerable. This era still reverberates through Peruvian politics, and the violence we experienced then catalyzed a wave of outward migration, including my parents’. There’s a parallel here: Dmae’s experience with her documentary Mei Mei, a Daughter’s Song, which will be helpful to help me scale this multigenerational tale into story arcs that I can produce.”

Harry Sultan and Karen Michel
Harry: “For over a year I have been working on a project I’ve titled The Wheels Keep Spinning. It is a four-part series that takes the listeners through the often overlooked connection between the history of gambling in Saratoga Springs and its influence on the beginning of the Las Vegas Strip as we know it today. With the help of Karen Michel I hope to find a way to make the final result as entertaining and gripping to the listeners as it has been for me over the past year of research. While I have formal training through Salt and many unbelievably supportive and talented colleagues who are always able to lend a helping hand, knowing that someone as talented as Karen in my corner to point me in the right direction is truly a game changer.”

Carol Vassar and Tom Lopez
Carol: “The Kiss is first-person docudrama-style piece about a forbidden and unexpected first kiss that took place nearly 20 years ago.”

Jessie Wright-Mendoza
Jessie: “I’ve been matched with Cheryl Devall, and we’ll be working on a story I’m developing about violations of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, more commonly known as ‘patient dumping.’ I’ve been looking at hospitals that have had multiple EMTALA violations, as well as the types of patients that are most often victims of patient dumping. This is my first investigative/data story, so we’ll work on determining the scope of the project and how to source the information that I’ll need to get the story.”

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Rebecca Lee Douglas is a multimedia producer based in New York City whose focus is on storytelling about mental health and feminism. She has her Bachelor’s in English from Barnard College and her Master’s in Journalism from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She is the creator and producer of GROUP, a lighthearted podcast about mental health and mental illness, which has been featured in Fast Company, The Washington Post’s “The Lily,” and was named one of Buzzfeed’s “27 Podcasts You Need To Start Listening To in 2018.”

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Allison Daskal Hausman specializes in communications strategy and storytelling as a means to initiate and support social change. While her work has always incorporated multimedia production, producing her own podcast is very new territory.

As the former Director of Communications at Education Resource Strategies, Allison sought to broaden the impact of ERS’ work to improve public school systems. Prior to that, as President of Daskal Communications, Allison produced audiovisual slideshows to bring out the stories of mission-oriented organizations. Allison also served as Production Coordinator for Promotion of the PBS series, FRONTLINE at WGBH, Boston. Most recently, she left her job to dedicate her skills to motivate political and social change through podcasting.

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Maria Murriel is a journalist, writer and audio producer in Boston, Massachusetts. She was the first digital editor at WLRN Public Media in Miami, Florida, where she developed the digital department and launched the station’s first podcast. After that, she covered immigration for the BBC/PRI show The World. Currently she teaches at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s Spanish-language program and produces podcasts with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, IDEO and The Conversation. Maria likes stories about immigration, family history, and people with a spark of defiance. She’s all about empowering people to tell their own tales, and believes journalists should remember to be human first. See her work at

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Harry Sultan was born and raised in New York City. He left the hustle and bustle of the city to study Psychology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York. Though studying Psychology as his major, he took full advantage of the liberal arts, learning about topics varying from figure drawing, to economics, and from political marketing to an entire course on The Wizard of Oz. In the summer before his senior year he decided to take a class in Audio Documentary and found that his love of listening to radio stories through podcasts was matched only by his passion for making them. After graduating from Skidmore he went on to study at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, where he spent 15 weeks learning more about the craft of radio storytelling and is now putting it to use working as a freelance radio storyteller in his home town while working on his independent project about mob-run casinos in Saratoga Springs where he went to college.

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Carol Vassar is a former commercial radio reporter with over 15 years of experience in the field who recently began a venture creating radio stories and podcasts that have been aired on the New England News Collaborative program, NEXT. Carol attended the Transom Traveling Workshop at the Podcast Garage in Allston, Massachusetts, in 2017, and has been recording the life stories of her mother and her friends at an assisted living center in Connecticut. She currently heads up social media for a large Connecticut healthcare system, a job that includes hosting and producing a health-oriented podcast.

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Jessie Wright-Mendoza is an audio and digital producer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has been heard on outlets including National Public Radio, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and KCRW’s Unfictional. She previously produced podcasts for news magazine The Week and Popular Mechanics, and served as the assistant producer for the PBS Digital Series Blank on Blank.