Q&A with Volunteer Katie Vitale
Q&A with Volunteer Katie Vitale
By Martha Louise Hunter
Katie Vitale has been host of Issues for Your Tissues since 2006 and is the current KOOP Board of Directors President.
Did you have any previous radio experience, or has KOOP been a new journey for you?
A wholly new journey. Nowhere else would I have been able to walk in with no experience, get trained, pitch a show idea, and get on the airwaves with this content. Of this, I am sure.
What is the format of Issues for Your Tissues?
It’s an hour talking with 1-6 people about an issue related to reproductive health or sexual well-being news and information.
How did you come up with idea the show?
I was, and still am, tired of legislators
IFYT is in its tenth year now -- How do you keep it fresh?
The news helps; some politician is always doing something stupid or great and we get to talk about it. The research helps; I’ll learn about something and feel compelled to share it with listeners. The listeners help; some memorable show ideas have come from emails to me (email@example.com).
Why are you so passionate about being on the radio?
The world needs more women talking more positively about reproductive health in more places. I’m always learning something from my guests and hope listeners are, too. Producing the show has given a home to my incessant research on this subject. I get to talk to people who deal with these issues on a full-time basis which is great. I love politics and debate and think words are important. We have to call things what they are. On KOOP, I get to call a lie a lie; I get to call a hypocrite, a hypocrite. There’s no one breathing down my neck about appeasing commercial sponsors. I don’t have to be palatable. I just have to be honest.
Why the focus on reproductive health?
In order to be a fully functional democracy, we all need access to primary healthcare and quality education. For women, primary healthcare in our society has been parsed out into general and reproductive—a specialty—so it’s harder for women to get. Women are less likely to be insured, more likely to hold a minimum wage job, and pay over 60% more out-of-pocket for healthcare than men. No one can look at this and say it’s fair or equitable. Everyone needs to acknowledge it. I’m dedicated to seeing this change.
Have things come from the show for you that you didn’t expect?
I didn’t expect that my passion for healthcare access would ever lead me to sound engineering and podcast production. It’s an added bonus.
Have there been any disastrous things happen on the show? Any cringe-worthy episodes?
Yes, both concurrently, I had an anti on the show once who started talking about genocide in reference to abortion. Not doing that again. Those fools get enough attention already. IFYT can be a no antis-zone.
Is there anything in particular that still surprises you?
That there is still so much to talk about. I hope we achieve equality and all women have full access to all reproductive healthcare, including abortion, but until we do, IFYT is needed.
Margaret Sanger gets maligned so often, I should do a show just on that. Her quote comes to mind, “No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” There is no freedom for women if they are not in complete control of their bodies. There can be no equality, no parity of the sexes if anyone is deciding the fate of others’ lives—if anyone is making life decisions for another.
Who was a favorite guest?
Dr. Willie Parker was phenomenal, as was Lizz Winstead.
Do you feel like you’re educating the listeners in some way?
Yes, I hope they’re able to take some info away after every episode. At very least, I hope they’re more empowered to broach the subject matter with people around them. I can’t be the only one having these conversations; our voices together will amplify and normalize the subject matter. We have to be courageous enough to talk about the things that are important and ask for the things we need.
When did you move to Austin? What brought you here?
In 2002 I moved here to transfer to UT. I completed my BA in Government in 2005.
How did your interest in radio begin?
Women are underrepresented in all media, radio included, and my first interest was born of that apparent disparity. KOOP welcomes and seeks out underrepresented voices, so I knew it was worthy of whatever time and energy I could give it, and that I’d have a better shot of sharing such content here than anywhere else. I still believe this to be true.
What do you do when you’re not on the air?
I work during the week at the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Texas doing my part to help give families more access to their children and medical facilities. Healthcare access is critical to our democracy. Since Texas has the most uninsured children, the most uninsured families and the most minimum wage workers, hospitalizations can break families. RMHCCTX fills that gap.
When not at KOOP or working on Board projects or at work, I’m likely binging on Netflix or reading something to do with feminism or women’s health.
KOOP is the only radio station where IFYT could have started. It’s the only radio station where many of the shows could have started. It’s the only cooperatively structured nonprofit radio station in the country. This is a special place.
Hear Issues For Your Tissues, Tuesday at 6pm with host, Katie Vitale