Independent news producer Aileen
LeBlanc, in her home studio.
on her own, local producer continues to capture peoples stories
Those who heard Aileen LeBlancs recent news story about Catholic
relics in Maria Stein, Ohio, which aired on National Public Radios
Morning Edition, might have imagined she whipped up her story
in a state-of-the-art studio using the latest in technology.
But no. Really, she produced the story in a tiny room above Joe Hollys
Cleaners, using her own computer.
When LeBlanc left her job as news director at WYSO in October, she lost
access to high-tech equipment, but she lost none of her desire to report
the news, and the world, as she sees it. And so she continues work as
an independent news producer, creating stories in her small apartment
on Corry Street.
I can do everything I used to do at WYSO in this little studio,
she said last month while sitting in the studio shes fashioned out
of the room that once was her now-grown daughters bedroom. Most
critical is LeBlancs computer with its Cool Edit software, plus
her newly purchased tape deck and microphone with headsets for going out
in the field.
There are trade-offs. For instance, when editing her Maria Stein piece,
she often had to pause, while laying soundtracks of nuns chanting the
rosary, while semi-trucks clanked to a stop in the intersection below.
And while WYSO equipment offered 64 tracks for sound, LeBlancs computer
program offers four. But four turned out to be enough for the final product,
Holy Relics Deep in Ohios Heartland, a thoughtful piece
that examines religious mystery at a Catholic chapel in Maria Stein, which
houses 1,100 Catholic relics.
I was thrilled, LeBlanc said, to learn the night before the
story ran in early January that NPR had featured the story on its Web
site as the Story for the Day.
The Maria Stein story appealed to her, LeBlanc said, because its
a complicated story with many layers of complexity, her favorite
kind. LeBlanc said that she especially likes producing stories that open
up people to the goodness and wonder of the world rather than increasing
So much news is bad news, she said. To find a little
place in the world thats inspiring well, that seems important.
Also, LeBlanc said, Im fascinated with religion. Its
a big part of what people are.
But there isnt much that doesnt fascinate LeBlanc, which,
she believes, is the key to her love for her work.
Im extremely curious, she said. I think everyone
I meet is the most fascinating person in the world.
Her curiosity about the world has led LeBlanc to win numerous broadcasting
awards in her 20-year career, including, over the past few years, Best
Weekly Program (several times) for Sounds Local, which she
produced on WYSO, from the national organization Public Radio News Directors
Incorporated, which also awarded her Best Hard News and Best Enterprise.
From the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, she has been recognized
for Best Investigative Reporting, Best Reporter in Ohio, Best Environmental
Reporting and Best Reporting on Childrens Issues.
Many of the awards come from her work on Sounds Local, and
LeBlanc believes that she did the best work Ive done in broadcasting
right here at the station. She loved working with her WYSO colleagues,
including Vick Mickunas and Debra Wilson, but left the station reluctantly
last fall. While she prefers not to comment specifically about her reasons
for leaving, at the time she did cite difficulties working with station
Immediately after leaving WYSO, LeBlanc began looking for another full-time
broadcasting job, and she has received several offers, all of which would
require leaving the area. But she decided she wanted to stay in Yellow
Springs because she loves the village and she wants to try working freelance
as an independent producer.
The decision means leaving behind financial security, since the life of
a freelance producer is by no means stable. But LeBlanc hopes she can
live with financial uncertainty as a trade-off for freedom.
Its an immensely creative time, she said. I can
do what I want to do.
Foremost among LeBlancs current projects is a video documentary
about Daytons role in breaking the Enigma Code during World War
II. Collaborating with the daughter of one of the code breakers, LeBlanc
is currently researching her subject and raising money.
This is a hugely significant part of Daytons history thats
virtually untold, she said. Its going to be a long process.
Its a labor of love.
Along with the documentary and her freelance reports for public radio,
LeBlanc is also doing freelance work in marketing for the Dayton Contemporary
Her current projects bring together the many talents and skills from LeBlancs
varied background, and she came to public radio on a circuitous path.
Rather than journalism, her first love was theater, and she graduated
from the University of Illinois with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre
design and technology. LeBlanc taught stagecraft and lighting at the University
of North Carolina, and served as technical director of university productions.
LeBlancs career in broadcasting began in television, and she worked
at Wilmington, N.C., television stations as public service director and
director of programming in the 1980s. After that, LeBlanc owned an advertising
agency before she switched to the Wilmington public radio station, where
she worked as news director for seven years before coming to WYSO in 1999.
During most of this time, LeBlanc was also a single parent raising a daughter,
whose portrait graces her mothers production studio.
Her daughters portrait is one clue that this tiny room isnt
your average production studio. Other clues are the Snoopy telephone beside
the computer and the flickering display of Christmas tree bubble lights,
which LeBlanc adores.
LeBlanc said that her studio is a place where she feels comfortable and
a place where she plans to spend lots of time, as she keeps producing
the stories she loves to tell.
Because I have a microphone and a reason, people will tell me stories,
LeBlanc said. I can open doors that take you places and discover
things. Its a privilege.