‘Kavitha on Asking Questions’ by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. He launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. You can follow People’s District on Twitter @PeoplesDistrict, and can read his previous columns here.

“Until moving to the states, I never really thought much about my accent. I was born in Liverpool and raised in Bangalore. To me, it is just a typical convent-educated, urban Indian accent. It is the accent of my sisters and all of my friends.

“Here, a lot of people can’t quite place me because of my accent. A lot of people have told me their mental image of me before we met is tall with long hair and white. I have had times when I go out to meet someone for an interview, and we have trouble connecting because they are looking out for someone else. Now, I just tell people, I am short, brown, and have a nose ring. It’s funny, I was meeting a cop once and described myself, and he said, ‘Great, I am six foot four, in uniform, and I carry a gun.’ We joked that we would have no trouble finding each other.

“Before going into radio, my plan was to do television. I did my master’s degree in communications in India and then did a second degree in broadcast journalism at Urbana-Champaign. While in school there, I interned for a TV station and they let me do everything, but wouldn’t let me get on the air. They said that people wouldn’t understand my accent and the ratings would drop. The station encouraged me to learn an American accent if I wanted to get on television. I thought about it a long time, but I knew that people would eventually realize that who I really am was not matching my American accent. I felt like they wouldn’t trust what I was saying, and trust is the most important thing in this line of work.

Continues after the jump.

“I made a decision to go into radio, which was new for me because we don’t have public radio in India. I got my start in Springfield, Illinois, and then moved to Washington almost three years ago. Working as a journalist in this country, I have come to realize how nuanced this place is.

“Because I have no grown up here, I am constantly asking questions about everything. Sometimes, those questions are about language and how English is used differently in America and India. Sometimes, the questions are about how things work here. Sometimes, those questions are about the bag tax and Michelle Rhee. In asking these questions, it gives me a really broad view of this place, and let’s me see things that some here don’t see because they may be so used to seeing things a certain way.

“I feel like I learn more about myself in this profession than in any other profession out there. Everyday, I meet someone new and match what they say with what I believe. It forces me to always think about every angle of an issue and take a very nuanced approach to things.”

Kavitha Cardoza is a senior reporter for WAMU 88.5.

13 Comment

  • I would change my accent to get on TV. Would be kind of fun actually.

    You don’t have to do that accent in the rest of your life, right?

  • I’m a long-time listener to WAMU and a fan of Kavitha’s reporting, and accent. Nice to learn a little more about her here.

  • sorry to say, but Kavitha’s accent has me jumping to switch channels. not sure why….maybe not so much the accent itself but the precision of her diction. i love the stories she covers, but her delivery gives me seizures.

    • Her super-precise diction used to drive me nuts too, but it’s softened a bit more recently and now I enjoy listening to her. I always assumed she was of Indian origin.

      • thanks. next time i’ll give her report a chance rather than jump to BIG 100.3 or something useless like that.

        i always figured Kavitha as an indian name. the Cardoza threw me a bit. then i saw the rock on her hand in that photo and deduced that she married into the Cardoza family…

        Kavitha, if you’re reading this: please don’t be offended. i think you’re a great reporter. just maybe drop some slangy stuff in there, or drop the “ing” occasionally…

  • I absolutely love her accent! She speaks so criply and clearly. I had pictured her a bit older, only because I thought one would have to be older to get that position, not due to the sound of her voice. I had assumed she is Indian or Middle Eastern. Kavitha, please don’t change your accent or grammar, enough with our race to the bottom with the English language.

    And somehow I’m posting too quickly… not sure how that is done.

  • Kavitha Cardoza is my favorite WAMU reporter–for the stories she covers, the way she presents them, and for her speaking voice. It’s nice to find out a bit more about her. Keep up the excellent work, Kavitha!

  • Always been a fan, even more so now!

  • Kavitha! I’ve always wondered Kavitha’s background and love hearing her on WAMU. Her fresh view helps cut to the core of what she’s reporting on, whether it’s a serious local item or a lighthearted interest piece.

  • I love Kavitha on WAMU, and she looked exactly how I imagine her. Thanks for these great interviews.

  • I like her very much. Like others, I was initially thrown by her accent a little bit, but its not a problem for me, especially since I worked in IT and I’m pretty good at understanding most variants of Indian English 🙂

    A decade ago, Kojo Nnamdi threw me also. But I think the case is that with both of them, I learned to be a better listener, which is good because they’re both well worth listening to.

  • Kavitha is great! Her accent is wonderful, as is her reporting.

    Funny, I always imagined she spelled her name “Carpitha.”

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