On the Air

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CONVICTIONS AND CONTRADICTIONS

author
Dan Miller
photography
Matthew Lim
illustration
Akhila Varghese

Do you ever have a stupid moment? Where do you sing? Are we using the word “guys” properly? If there’s anything to take away from Neetu Dha’s radio show Convictions and Contradictions, it’s that there are a lot of curiosities about our society that we don’t always notice or contemplate. Neetu hosts a comedy program that airs at 8AM on alternate Thursdays on CiTR 101.9FM, where she explores humorous social observations. The following is an interview with Neetu.

 

Who is Neetu Dha?

That’s a difficult question. I guess I could define myself by my roles. Like, I’m a student; I’m Sikh; I’m Punjabi; I’m Canadian; I’m a daughter and I’m a sister. I also feel like I’m intelligent too, though one of my shows is about how everyone has a stupid moment – I definitely have my fair share of those, but I don’t think I really know who I am. Neetu Dha is something in the works.

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Neetu Dha || Matthew Lim for Discorder Magazine

How would you describe your show?

The show is about how everybody has their convictions – you have your convictions, I have mine – but there are contradictions to our convictions, we just don’t know about them yet. I always describe the show in the same way: it’s about social observation and I want it to be funny.

 

Why is it important that the show be funny?

I’m making social observations and when I talk about them, I don’t want it to feel like an essay paper. I don’t want to make a documentary, I want to make a funny documentary.

 

Who are your inspirations for the show?

I feel like I draw from my high school teachers a lot. In high school we’d spend whole classes just talking about things like concrete. *Laughs* There’s something about teachers where they want to make things funny because I think they have a belief that more students will listen. I guess that instilled something in me to try and make things funny.

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Neetu Dha || Matthew Lim for Discorder Magazine

Do you think of yourself as a teacher when you’re on the air?

A little bit. I’m trying to teach everybody something, but at the same time I also want the audience to understand that [they] probably already know this, I’m just pointing it out to [them].

 

As a student, how do you balance your academics with your commitment to radio?

That’s always something that weighs on my mind, it is difficult to juggle everything. I have five courses, I have an internship, a part-time job, I illustrate, I have this show and I try to exercise, although that’s not going so well. *Chuckles*

 

Is there anyone else involved with producing the show?

It’s all me. Although, sometimes I ask people at the station, “what do you think about this?” because I think another sub-meaning of this show is that I have all these observations that I’ve made and I find important, but I can’t experience everything and I would still like to articulate the experiences [of others] and therefore I need to go to other people for that.

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Neetu Dha || Matthew Lim for Discorder Magazine

Are you ever hesitant about sharing yourself on the air?

I feel like I’m not scared to share myself, I think sometimes what pulls me back from sharing something personal is that it might veer from what the show is about. It will no longer be about social observations, it’ll be about personal observations and the show isn’t about me. But I do always try to bring in my observations and my perspective. The one thing I think that really brings me back is that my parents listen to the show, very frequently, and there are some things you don’t want to say in front of your parents. *Laughs*

 

Why do you only play instrumental music on your show?

I’ve always been drawn to instrumental music. I feel like music today is just so focused on the words but really when you listen to the song, you’re not focused on the words. I don’t play an instrument, I don’t know how music works, I just know that I like the sound of instrumental music. I play video games and video games have instrumental music most of the time. I feel like it’s just so underrepresented and I feel like we’re losing music to the lyrics that we don’t actually listen to. Instrumental music is an abstraction that needs to be used more and made aware of more. That’s what I try to do with the show.

 

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You can catch Convictions and Contradictions every other Thursday at 8AM. on CiTR 101.9FM or listen to past episodes on CiTR’s website: citr.ca/radio/convictions-and-contradictions/

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I may be an outsider, but working at CiTR 101.9FM, it’s easy to see the tight-knit camaraderie of News Collective under the watchful eye of Alex de Boer, CiTR’s Current Affairs Coordinator. As delightful as their bond is, it has been a special treat to see the work that the collective has done with their new podcast series, Seeking Office. I get a kick out of the interviews with politicians who aren’t expecting any difficulty from student and emerging journalists, and I can tell that they have caught a few of the earlier interviewees off guard. As the summer has progressed, many candidates for Vancouver’s civic election have wised up and learnt not to dismiss this plucky group of volunteers as they look for transparency from their potential political representatives. The following is an interview with Alex.


 

What is Seeking Office?

Seeking Office is a new podcast about the upcoming Vancouver civic election. It’s made by CiTR’s News Collective, produced by me. We have interviews with politicians, we have interviews with experts and some sort of narrative storytelling in there. It’s meant to make the civic election interesting and to provide some social and historical context for where we are now, to equip people with the knowledge they need to vote and move forward actively with intention on how they want their city to be.

 

Were you just thinking at the end of last school term like, “I love working, I can’t stand not having another thing to produce?”

Yeah, I guess so. *laughs*

I just thought, with local journalism suffering as it is, there’s a notable drop in local coverage. As newsrooms shrink, the first thing to go is their City Hall reporters. We’re seeing across Canada and America, less coverage of civic governments, so being that there’s an election in October, [the News Collective] just saw this as an opportunity to make engaging content and get some practice at creative, non-fiction storytelling and to provide a service that’s needed in Vancouver.

There’s really nowhere you can go to get consistent coverage of what is happening. If you want to pay attention to the civic election you really have to be on Twitter — which a lot of people aren’t!

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Illustration by Ewan Thompson for Discorder Magazine

Have there been any interviews that didn’t go how you were expecting?

A recent one was with the president of a new civic party, Coalition Vancouver. His name is Peter Labrie, and he’s a former board member of the NPA ( Non-Partisan Association). I did an interview with him about why he left the NPA and joined Coalition Vancouver, what this party was all about and why they describe themselves as being a centrist party despite being fiscally conservative. So at the end of the interview, I said goodbye without asking a final question I had wanted to ask because I had gotten too afraid. [It was about] his Twitter page — he had a number of off-colour…*looks for the right word to characterize the tweets*

I would say they are poor-bashing.

Yeah. There are a few straight-up misogynistic tweets, as well. I want Seeking Office to be as objective as possible. Obviously there is no such thing as objectivity, but I do want to be approaching all our interviews and content with hard-hitting questions that are fair and are bringing to light things that the public deserves to know.

I ended up calling him back. He’s the president of a new party who describes themselves as centrist — because he’s saying that he’s socially progressive — even though he’s retweeting things that are essentially hateful and condemning of the poor and those who are drug users. So I called him back and I asked him about this tweet. I think it was worth it and I tried to stay as neutral as I could.

Accountability interviewing is scary but it’s important and can produce really rewarding information. There are so many people that feel that when we’re trying to process what’s going on politically, you just wish you could ask this person about that. You’ve got an opportunity to get at something that most people don’t, and they deserve to know because these are their politicians who they might elect to represent them in office. So it’s really a privilege to do this work.

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The News Collective | Photography by Emmanual Etti for Discorder Magazine

You know a lot about audio production and narrative storytelling, but you’re kind of experiencing some things for the first time with Seeking Office. Do you find that you can share with the News Collective members the experience of being new to journalism and new to accountability journalism?

I have a degree in journalism from UBC, but in the past I haven’t done accountability interviewing, it was mostly arts and culture writing. I think something valuable that I bring is a certain earnestness and a willingness to ask dumb questions, because I am newer to this type of journalism and I think there’s not enough of that in journalism, especially radio journalism — asking clarifying questions and really pressing people if you don’t understand something. So I think my weakness can be my strength.

I think the News Collective volunteers watching me is valuable. Just to say that, if you’re prepared, you can call someone up and ask tough questions. You can talk to anyone. Half the job of being a reporter is just showing up. Hopefully that’s a lesson that the News Collective and maybe listeners are learning.

 

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You can hear all episodes of Seeking Office by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or hear past episodes online at citr.ca/radio/seeking-office. And make sure to vote in the municipal election on October 20.