“Everyone should come in for coffee and get on the radio!” A Programmer Profile of Alissa Paxton

Caileigh Morrison: Hello Alissa.

Alissa Paxton: Hello Caileigh.

CM: You are a programmer at Trent Radio. Tell me about your show.

AP: I am going to be doing Afternoons at the Symphony on Wednesday afternoons this year.

CM: What is Afternoons at the Symphony?

AP: It is a show that takes place in the afternoon, at 12:30, and I’m going to be playing classical music.

CM: What other Trent Radio programmes have you done in the past?

AP: Well, Afternoons at the Symphony is a big departure for me. I previously did a lot of talk radio shows—I started doing a sexual health and education show then moved onto Peterborough Women’s hour, which was about women’s issues. Then last year I did The Left Channel, which was about leftist politics and current events.

CM: When did you first get involved at Trent Radio and what brought you here?

AP: I guess about six years ago. I was working at the Trent Women’s Centre, and a friend had a radio show and interviewed me in the lead-up to International Women’s Day. I got hooked! So that’s always been my philosophy at Trent Radio, to pull people in, to invite them for coffee, then get them on the radio for a short interview, then get them hooked, then suggest that they do their own radio show the next season.

CM: And they won’t even know!

AP: They won’t even know. Soon they’re just living here.

CM: What do you like about Trent Radio? What keeps you around?

AP: I love the idea that anybody can come in off the street with a passion for something and put it on the air. You don’t need to have experience doing radio, you don’t need to be a professional, and I think that adds to the diversity of voices that are on the air, which is pretty limited in commercial radio.

CM: What do you do outside of Trent Radio?

AP: To pay the rent, I convene things at Sadleir House—I’m the events manager there. It’s a great student and community facility that’s just up the street from Trent Radio.

CM: You can pimp it all you want.

AP: I will. Sadleirhouse.ca. Besides that, I’m involved with the local NDP, and otherwise I hang out a lot at my house and knit and watch movies.

CM: That sounds like the perfect life.

AP: I like it quite a bit.

CM: You’ve done a lot of political talk shows. How do you think the medium of radio compares to other media in that arena? What are the advantages and disadvantages to talking about politics on the air?

AP: I think it’s a great forum to talk about politics. When I was doing talk radio shows and inviting people in for interviews they were just people, having a conversation. It’s a lot more natural, like something that would talk place in a pub or at a coffee shop. I think you get people’s more honest opinions because they’re not sitting down to write it and then editing it and thinking about it. You just ask them a question, they answer, and you have a conversation that’s recorded and broadcast and shared with the community.

CM: Have you ever had any controversial moments on your radio shows?

AP: The very first time that I was on the radio, actually. One of the events we were doing was a sex toy workshop, so my friend and I were talking about sex toys, including butt plugs, and somebody called to complain. The very first time. And I thought, “this is awesome!”

CM: Have you interviewed any really interesting people?

AP: Yeah! Last year in the lead-up to the NDP leadership race I was actually able to interview a few of the leadership candidates on Trent Radio, Paul Dewar and Brian Topp. It was really exciting for me to have a conversation with them and really exciting for Trent Radio because these were people who were also being interviewed on the CBC and other nation-wide broadcasters. So it was great that they took the time to do a small campus radio station and that we got to broadcast them.

CM: Now you’re transitioning from more political talk radio to music. What are your hopes and fears about doing a music show?

AP: What freaks me out is that I don’t know much about classical music at all—right now, if you asked me a question about it I wouldn’t be able to answer it. But I want to learn, so that’s what excites me. I’m interested in the topic, so I plan on exploring Trent Radio’s absolutely gorgeous classical vinyl collection, pulling out things that interest me, spending the week learning about them, and then sharing with the audience what I have learned, while playing music.

CM: Any parting words?

AP: I think that everyone should come in for coffee and get on the radio and then write a programme proposal.

CM: That would be good.