The 2018 New York Festivals Radio Awards celebrated the World’s Best Radio Programs on June 19th in New York City. Prominent award-winning, producers, directors, presenters and content creators from around the globe took to the stage to accept their trophies and celebrate their success. NYF’s Radio Awards shines the spotlight on exceptional radio content in all lengths and formats and across all platforms from radio stations, networks and independent producers.
Albert Leung, on air personality for CBC’s Campus, has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for eight years. His career has allowed him to work at Summer and Winter Olympics, he personally witnessed history at the inauguration of U.S. President Barack Obama, and reported from the nation’s capital in the aftermath of the Ottawa shooting. Albert was born to tell stories.
This past June, Albert accepted the prestigious NYF Grand Award, UNDPI Silver and Gold trophy honors for Campus podcast “Am I Going to Die In Here?”
New York Festivals: What sparked the idea for your Grand Award winning entry “Am I going to die here”?
Albert Leung: Since our first season, the team, lead by Senior Producer Sean Brocklehurst, had been looking to tackle the Syrian civil war and the refugee crisis. We wanted to hear and tell a first-hand account. Through the tireless efforts of producer Eric Van, we interviewed a number of Syrian refugees who arrived in Canada through the years. For a bunch of different reasons, we just couldn’t quite nail down the right person. Then we came across Mohammad al-Masalma, or Mo. What this young man went through was astonishing. He was part of the very first wave of anti-government protests. He was detained, tortured. His father was shot by a sniper. He fled the country and eventually made his way to Halifax, Nova Scotia. Mo was very giving with his time, his deep dark memories, and his emotions. We spent close to 10 hours talking to Mo and recording his story. And so, we had to do right by Mo to share his story with the world.
New York Festivals: What creative challenges did you encounter when producing and how did you solve those challenges?
Albert Leung: Mo’s English is very strong, but his mother tongue is obviously Arabic, specifically a dialect native to Syria. And we wanted to illustrate with sound, his life-changing altercations. First, when his house was ambushed by soldiers and he was arrested, and second, when he was interrogated and tortured in prison. We needed to find someone who spoke and could represent that specific dialect or accent, if you may. Ultimately we relied on a colleague who knew someone from Syria who was willing to help. And that person played a significant role in bringing those moments, those scenes to life with authenticity and realism.
New York Festivals: To what do you attribute the success of this program?
Three years, three golds, a grand, and UN award. Wow. Clearly this program struck a chord with a lot of people. And it is absolutely so humbling to be recognized internationally by your peers. Year after year, it’s always very tough competition, the best of the best in the planet. To the fellow finalists, congrats. To the listeners, thank you. To the jury, thank you. But you know, there are many different definitions of success. Being part of a public broadcaster has its limitations and challenges. Despite being an already lean crew of three, with a very limited budget, we’ve been told this is the end of the road and there’s a need to make way for new projects. So hey, it’s been a great run, honestly tough to see it get duplicated but we wish those endeavors the best of luck.
New York Festivals:What was your ultimate goal for the program?
Albert Leung: In essence this was a passion project for the crew. Every interview we would always ask the storyteller, “What did you learn about yourself?” and in sharing many of those answers story after story, we learned a lot about ourselves too. We worked countless days into the wee hours of the morning. We spent many nights away from our families. We did all this simply to share life-changing stories that highlighted the human condition. We never did shy away from the deep dark corners of life. Above all, we always put our story-tellers first and foremost in the hopes of doing them and their stories justice. And in the end, if we won that one person’s trust, respect, and admiration, that, is the ultimate prize.