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Meet Michelle Jokisch Polo, WKAR's Newest Host and Reporter

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Isabel Garcia
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Dreams By Bella Photography

Over the past year, WKAR has been making some changes to our newsroom. Our most recent team addition is Michelle Jokisch Polo. Michelle comes to us from WGVU in Grand Rapids and has been reporting for the Michigan Public Radio Network. She joined Morning Edition Host and Producer Mary Ellen Pitney to talk about her personal experience, her philosophy on public radio and to have a laugh.

Mary Ellen Pitney: Over the past year or so WKAR has gone through some changes, welcoming new voices and perspectives on to our service to bring you well rounded, thoughtful radio. Today we get to welcome our most recent addition to the newsroom, Michelle Jokisch Polo, and we're gonna take a minute to get to know her right now. Good morning, Michelle.

Michelle Jokisch Polo: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

MEP:  You're welcome. So first, I want to say Michelle Jokisch Polo is a great radio name and some of our keen listeners will likely recognize it from your reporting with the Michigan Public Radio Network. So give us a snapshot of your experience here in Michigan.

MJP: I've been in Michigan for the last 12 years now. And I got started in radio about two years ago, at WGVU Public Radio which is the public radio station in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is where I am joining the interview from. That’s probably where people heard me first.

MEP: You know, one of the things that I love about my peers in public radio is that they come from all different walks of life and usually have these like really cool, colorful backgrounds. So why don't you tell us about some of your background?

MJP: Yeah, so I'm not originally from Michigan. I was born in El Salvador, which is a little country in Central America, between Guatemala, and I think Honduras is the other border and Belize and one side, and my dad is from El Salvador. So I was born there. And my mom is from Ecuador. But there was a civil war in the early 90s, which is when I was born, and we had to leave the country because it was just unsafe for us. So we went to Ecuador. And I spent most of my growing years in Ecuador. Yeah, so I originally from El Salvador, but lived in Ecuador, and now I live in Michigan.

MEP: That's one of the things that bums me out about radio sometimes is that I'm sure your story is so much longer than the five minutes we get to have right now. But thank you for sharing part of it with us. So now I want to ask what draws you to public radio? Why do you love this work?

MJP: You know, I love this work because I think it's accessible in the sense that you can reach an audience that they may not be able to read, or have time to read, or know where to get their news from on social media or the internet. And radio makes it easier for people to be able to do something else while listening while getting informed. And I think you can do a lot of stuff with sound and audio. Some things that you can't really do in print sometimes. Like in print, you can't really hear the background of someone you're interviewing. Like, if it's a family and there's kids running around, you can't really hear that. You can describe it, but there's like beauty in the being able to hear that. So you're sort of almost there and I think radio does that for people.

MEP: Do you think there's like a special kind of intimacy that comes with radio?

MJP: I definitely think so I think that we're all like as humans, we're all craving intimacy with one another. And especially now during the time of COVID. Many of us are feeling isolated not being able to see friends or family, some of us. And so yeah, I definitely think that radio brings us that intimacy and especially now. Like, I find that to be incredibly valuable, and it's a great resource that I can, you know, offer people. When doing stories.

MEP: Well, we're so excited to have you be there to make human connections with our listeners. That means so much to everybody who listens to the service, myself included. This is WKAR and we are speaking with our newest host and reporter Michelle Jokisch Polo. Tell me what kind of stories you like to tell.

MJP: That's a good question. I like to tell the stories where, the stories that haven't been told. Or, from the perspective that hasn't been told before. I like to focus on people that you know, maybe they haven't been interviewed about a particular event, but they were there.

MEP: All right, so you're really interested in bringing a voice to the voiceless. I like that. Okay, before we go, I do want to play a little game. It's called two truths and a lie. How do you feel about that, Michelle?

MJP: You know, I feel great. I'm a terrible liar, but let's go with it.

MEP: Okay, so great. For listeners who may not know how this game is played, Michelle will give us two facts about herself, and then one fiction about herself, and then we will guess which one's the lie. All right, Michelle. Give it to us.

MJP: I cut my cat's hair the other day with a pair of scissors. I have three sisters. And I like to sleep with… [laughter]… that's obviously the lie..oh man, see I'm so bad at this.

Both: [Laughter]

MEP: You know what, that's a good thing because it means that you're gonna always be honest with our listeners.

MJP: Let me come up with another one.

MEP: You know what, I think? We've just exposed you. It's fine.

MJP: Okay, great. I'm good.

MEP:  Thank you so much for speaking with me today, Michelle.

MJP: You're welcome. This is fun.

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