Andrea Lewis, long-time broadcast and print journalist, co-anchor of the KPFA Evening News and host of Pacifica’s Sunday Sedition, died last weekend of an apparent heart attack. She was 52.
Many thousands of radio listeners awoke to the voice of Andrea Lewis as co-host of the Morning Show and more recently Sunday Sedition. Her warm, relaxed delivery and knowledge of public affairs, music and the arts earned her a loyal following.
Andrea Lewis was a native of Detroit, Michigan and earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1982, where she studied Music, English Literature, and Art History. She was a 2008 Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University. Andrea first made her name in journalism after moving to the Bay Area in 1983. She started her career as an editor for Plexus: West Coast Women’s Press. In the late 1980s, she became a research editor for Mother Jones magazine. From there she went on to become an editorial assistant at Harper Collins Publishers in San Francisco in 1991 and two years later became a senior editor at Third Force Magazine. In 1996, Andrea joined Pacific News Service in San Francisco (now New America Media) as an associate editor.
She switched effortlessly to radio in 1999, joining the KPFA Morning Show as co-host. Andrea’s friends, colleagues and classmates remember her as a curious, thoughtful journalist with diverse interests.
“Andrea was truly a renaissance woman. She could talk about the politics of the day. She could talk about issues and what was going on not only nationally but also locally what,” says Amelia Gonzalez, KPFA Interim Assistant General Manager.
“But it was also her knowledge of cultural affairs. She was a singer. She sang in the San Francisco Community Chorus and she was an avid golfer. We loved to argue about sports.”
Andrea’s journalism work earned her accolades. The National Federation of Community Broadcasters recognized her with its Golden Reel award in 2002. In 2004, the California Teachers Association presented her with its John Swett Award for Media Excellence. Andrea was a fellow in the Society of Professional Journalists Diversity Leadership Program from 2006-2007. Matthew Rothschild is editor of the Progressive Magazine in Madison Wisconsin, to which Andrea was a regular contributor. He remembers Andrea as a deft journalist with tools that crossed platforms:
“She could write well. She was gifted and a natural at radio. She did interviews really well. She did cultural profiles really well for the progressive magazine. She did commentaries for the progressive media project that were strongly voiced and in a different style. She was kind of a utility infielder as far as a journalist goes and she’d appreciate that because she was a big sports fan.”
Friends say Andrea was always warm and easy-going, but with a direct straightforward manner when it came to issues close to her heart like race, gender and sexual orientation. They say Andrea would sometimes use everyday discussions about sports and other topics as teachable moments.
“I’m a big college basketball fan. So we were going to do a college basketball pool,” recalls Paul Kavinta, a former Stanford Knight Fellow who befriended Andrea during their time at the University. “Andrea was like ‘yeah I’ll do that, but where’s the women’s pool?’ I was like, oh right, I guess we have to have a women’s basketball pool. That’s a fun example of what Andrea would bring up.”
Other friends from Andrea’s time as a Knight Fellow remember her as being fearless when it came to putting difficult subjects on the table during class discussions.
“She wore her heart on her sleeve and she wore her opinions on her sleeve and what I loved about her was that she would just get in there and ask the hard questions,” says friend and former Stanford Knight Journalism Fellow Ruth Teichroeb. “She would be the one who would say what everyone else was thinking and just bring it out in the open. Sometimes it was uncomfortable, but it didn’t matter because she always told the truth.”
Other friends and colleagues said that although she held strong opinions, she was never strident and was always open to listening to people with opposing views.
Jim Bettinger, Director of the Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford says beyond Andrea’s journalistic achievements, he’ll remember her as someone who was just easy to like: “In my mind she was just a real sweetheart, a good person whom I liked enormously and one whom I’m going to miss enormously.”
And we here at KPFA share that sentiment as does everyone who was privileged enough to count Andrea among their friends. If Thackeray was right and “A good laugh is sunshine in the House,” then all our houses are a little sunnier for having known Andrea.
A memorial service for Andrea Lewis will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 24 at the First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St. All Andrea's friends and colleagues are invited to celebrate Andrea's life and grieve our loss as a community.