Tag Archives: Persona app

Persona Interview: Police Chief Foti Koskinas

What 4 Minneapolis police officers did to George Floyd was “horrifying and embarrasing.”

97% of what the Westport police do is “serve.” Only about 3% is “protect.”

And even though he is white, when Foti Koskinas came to the US as a 7th grader from Greece — speaking not a word of English — he felt like a minority.

He made those remarks yesterday, in an interview with Rob Simmelkjaer. They’re significant because Koskinas is now Westport’s chief of police.

The wide-ranging interview includes topics like why, at a Jesup Green rally, Koskinas apologized to Floyd’s family (he felt the Minnesota police had dishonored the uniform and badge Koskinas is so proud of), and current calls to de-fund police departments (he talks about the effects of government cuts to mental health services, which force the police to now do more than ever).

The interview was done in partnership with Westport Lifestylemagazine, which will post excerpts from this and other interviews with Westporters about recent protests.

The interview is available on the Persona app — and on YouTube. Click below for the full discussion.

Roundup: Library Book Sale Begins; Comedy Show Saturday; More


The Westport Book Sale’s silent auction opened for bidding this morning.

Items include a virtual visit with Lauren Tarshis, Westport Country Playhouse tickets, a golf outing, photo sessions, artworks, counseling services, fine wine, items for home and garden, and of course rare and interesting books (and more).

Silent auction bidding ends this Friday (June 19, 6 p.m.). There’s also “book bundles” — surprises in a variety of genre (available through Friday, June 26).

Click here for more information, and to bid.


Another important fundraiser that’s moved online is Homes with Hope’s “Stand Up At Home” special event. Set for this Saturday (June 20, 8 p.m.), it showcases 4 great stand-up comedians. There’s also a special performance by Staples High School graduate Justin Paul, and guest appearances by Westport’s own Dr. Scott Gottlieb and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe.

It’s a great way to laugh together — in the comfort of home — despite being apart.

It’s also much-needed benefit for Homes with Hope, which since 1984 has helped homeless families and individuals through emergency shelter, supportive housing, case management, mentoring, education, and daily meals and groceries.

A suggested $25 donation for “Stand Up at Home” covers your entire family. Click here to register for Saturday’s show. For more information on Homes with Hope, click here.


Ariana Napier continues to make weekly runs to the Bridgeport Rescue Mission. And Westporters continue to help.

Her next donation is this Friday (June 19). Items most in need: peanut butter and jelly (no glass), cereal and canned vegetables.

Drop-offs can be made at a bin in her driveway (14 Jennings Court, off Bayberry Lane). She’s also happy to pick up at your house. Email ariana.napier@gmail.com for details.


1st Selectman Jim Marpe spoke with Staples High School graduate/Persona Interviews intern Becca Rawiszer about the town’s reopening plans, and his thoughts on how Westport has handled the COVID crisis. 

Click here to download the Persona app, to watch it all.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe.


And finally … Tori Amos caught a lite sneeze. But she’s fine!

Persona Of The Day: Candice Savin

For a while, Rob Simmelkjaer and I have been talking about a “Persona of the Week” interview for “06880.” Persona — his new mobile app — makes it easy and fun to conduct interviews and create podcasts.

These days, staying connected is more important than ever. So Rob and I are using Persona’s “06880 Dan Woog” channel to help.

Once a day — usually in my COVID-19 Roundup story — we’ll share your stories. Some will be family interviews; others will be questions of special guests.

We start with Board of Education chair Candice Savin. She answered a few questions from Rob Simmelkjaer about when schools will likely reopen, the impact of this crisis on the education budget, and whether the shutdown will impact the schedule for Coleytown Middle School’s reopening.

Here’s a clip from her CMS answer. You can download the app (iPhone or Android for the full Q&A, and to ask her your own questions. Then follow “06880 Dan Woog” — and stay connected. (To share your own interviews, tag “06880 Dan Woog” in the interviewee field.

Board of Education chair Candice Savin

Persona Of The Week: What Is “Happiness,” Anyway?

With threats of global pandemics, jittery stock markets and too much political debate on social media, many of us may feel challenged to feel happy.

But what is “happiness” anyway? And since when have we even felt entitled to pursue it?

hat was the topic of this week’s Persona Live interview at the Westport Library with Dartmouth College history professor Darrin McMahan, author of “Happiness: A History.” Click below to watch:

 

Next Monday’s interview (March 9, 6 p.m., Westport Library Forum) features Westporter Nathalie Jacob, author of “8: Rediscovering Life After a Brain Tumor.”

This and all “Persona Live Westport” interviews are also available on the Persona interview app, currently available in beta for iPhones. You can download the app (iPhone only) here.

Persona Of The Week: Nancy Wyman

The Westport Library’s Forum is quickly becoming the place to be seen — and see some very intriguing folks.

CBS correspondent/podcaster/author Mo Rocca was there the other night. This evening, Titanic discover/undersea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard comes to town.

On Monday evening, Nancy Wyman was the featured guest. In the midst of a chaotic political week, the head of the state Democratic Party spoke to Westporter Rob Simmelkjaer about national and Connecticut issues.

It was the first in a series of live interviews at the Library. On Monday, February 24 (6 p.m.), former ESPN anchor Lindsay Czarniak and fellow Westporter Marysol Castro, the in-stadium voice of the New York Mets, talk about their careers in journalism.

Click below for the Nancy Wyman interview:

Nancy Wyman Inaugurates Library “Persona” Series

This fall, Persona introduced Westporters to local political candidates.

Now it will connect leaders from around the state with the world. But there’s still a Westport hook.

Starting Monday (February 10, 6 p.m.), the social media/interview platform — founded right here, by Westporter Rob Simmelkjaer — will host a new, free series at the Library forum. The public can watch Connecticut leaders in business, politics, journalism, sports and more talk abut their lives and careers.

Nancy Wyman

The first interview is with Nancy Wyman. The chair of the Connecticut Democratic Party and former lieutenant governor will discuss state and national elections.

Simmelkjaer is a former ESPN, ABC News and NBC Sports executive and journalist.

In other words: the perfect “persona” to introduce the new library series, and interview this statewide figure.

Rob Simmelkjaer’s Ground-Breaking Persona

As a kid, Rob Simmelkjaer’s grandmother always told him: “If you’re going to open your mouth, the best thing is to ask a question.”

Questions are “a sign of respect, curiosity, a way to learn,” notes the Westporter. “They’re more than just an opening.”

Simmelkjaer has had lots of chances to ask questions. He’s a former member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and a 2017 candidate for second selectman.

Rob Simmelkjaer

He’s been an on-air contributor for NBC Sports, and as vice president of NBC Sports Ventures was involved with the radio network and podcasts. He previously worked at ESPN and ABC News, where as anchor and correspondent he covered the Virginia Tech shootings and President Ford’s funeral.

Simmelkjaer — who majored in government and philosophy at Dartmouth College, and holds a law degree from Harvard University — is a huge fan of NPR’s StoryCorps. In those short Friday segments people interview relatives and friends, unearthing tales rich in drama and inspiration.

So it’s no surprise that Simmelkjaer — who was NBC Sports’ “in-house entrepreneurial expert” — is now striking out on his own.

Or that his new venture — Persona — is all about asking questions.

Simmelkjaer calls Persona “the first social video platform dedicated to interviews.” It’s like Instagram, he says — but with conversations, not photos.

The app makes interviewing easy. It helps interviewers frame great questions, makes sharing interviews easy, and enables users to discover interesting interviews on similar (or totally unrelated) topics.

Rob Simmelkjaer is at ease in front of a camera. Persona will make the rest of us feel comfortable too.

Persona is not yet ready for prime time. Simmelkjaer is developing a prototype. He’s slowly releasing content on other platforms, like YouTube, to grow the brand.

It’s an exciting project. Just the other day — in the aftermath of the massacre at a New Zealand mosque — Simmelkjaer interviewed Imam Mohamed Abdelati of the Bridgeport Islamic Community Center.

Westport is an important part of Simmelkjaer’s process. Interviews with people like State Senator Will Haskell and attorney Josh Koskoff Takes On The NRA — interesting folks with intriguing insights — are part of the plan.

Simmelkjaer’s very first Persona interview was with Victoria Gouletas. She’s the ZBA member who was paralyzed a year ago, when a heavy tree branch fell on her during a windstorm.

Gently but insightfully, he asks Gouletas about the accident, how she handled the devastating news, and the effect on her family. As she talks about her children, they chatter in the background. Despite the tragedy, the interview is warm, personal and uplifting.

That’s Simmelkjaer’s goal with Persona. It launches officially later this year.

Keep your eyes and ears open.

And when you open your mouth, follow Rob Simmelkjaer’s grandmother’s advice: Ask a question.