In many ways, America’s justice system is broken.
That’s particularly true in Missouri. Public defenders have an ethical responsibility to represent their clients. However, they are overwhelmed by the number of cases. Yet when they are unable to spend an appropriate amount of time with a client, they risk losing their licenses.
Vika Aronson wanted to do something about that. She’s not an attorney. Nor does she live in Missouri.
However, she is the podcast producer for “PBS Newshour.” So the Staples High School Class of 2007 graduate is in a unique position to help.
Her 5-part series — “Broken Justice” — debuted earlier this month. New episodes are released weekly.
Focusing on Ricky Kidd — convicted wrongly of a double homicide in 1997 — but also covering the entire public defender crisis, they’re well worth listening to.
Vika always had a creative bent. She was a member of Staples Players, took directing classes, and sang with Orphenians. She apprenticed at the Westport Country Playhouse. At Skidmore College she majored in government, but also took theater courses.
After graduation Vika did food justice and environment work for non-profits. But she missed the creativity she’d found in theater and story telling. Moving to the Bay Aea, she discovered podcasts. Public radio is big there. She joined a training program at KPFA, the Pacifica station in Berkeley.
Vika loved reporting: talking to people, gathering stories, adding music to produce a finished piece. She used many of the lessons learned during her Playhouse apprenticeship, including sound design.
Vika worked fulltime, managing a retail store. But she did freelance radio work in the area.
In the summer of 2018, her boyfriend got an internship at NPR. The moved to Washington, DC. Last December she was hired by “PBS NewsHour,” to direct their podcasts.
Companion pieces to the heralded TV show, Vika’s podcasts range from an analysis of the State of the Union speech, to a 4-part companion to the televised “Antarctica” series.
“Broken Justice” is the first “NewsHour” podcast geared solely to audio. The pitch to Vika came from Frank Carlson, a reporter deeply interested in the topic. While Vika and he were working on, a dramatic decision was handed down in Ricky Kidd’s case. It makes for compelling listening.
Vulture called it one of the best crime podcasts ever. It’s gained a steady stream of listeners — and may result in legislative action.
You can hear “Broken Justice” yourself, any time. It’s available on Apple Tunes, and wherever else you get your podcasts.