"It's been crazy," Gordon says. "It happened pretty quickly. The opportunity presented itself, and I was really excited about it, and one thing led to another. It was just a really wonderful thing that I'm excited about, but at the same time it's sad to leave KCUR. But people have been really supportive of me there, and I'm definitely planning to stay in touch and hope to stay connected with folks."
Last year, The Pitch named Gordon the city's "Best Reporter." As we wrote then: "She has crafted story after story around the sometimes deeply moving narratives of patients and health workers, all of whom she treats with sensitivity and dignity. And her work on covering a proposed federal physician database last winter was no less memorable, despite being about, well, a federal database."
We're sad to see her go, so we called her up for an exit interview.
The Pitch: Elana, why are you leaving us?
Gordon: This was just a really exciting opportunity. I'm from New York, so it's nice to be close to my immediate family. KCUR is fantastic. I love the station, and I love Kansas City. It's home in a lot of ways. What I'm excited about at WHYY, they're experimenting a lot in their health-science desk. So it's a chance to join a team of reporters, and they'll be launching a show in the fall. There's a huge health-care landscape in the Philadelphia area, a lot of pharmaceutical companies. And you're right between Delaware and New Jersey.
What business are you leaving unfinished?
In a lot of ways, having this move happen pretty quickly, it feels like a lot is unfinished. I hope it's not something that I'm leaving behind, but I'm hoping to continue with those connections and everything else.
How exciting is it to now work with a team of health reporters?
It's really exciting. I really thrive in team environments, and KCUR is a fantastic team environment. And, in some ways, it's been great to own a certain area of focus. It'll just be a new experience to see what it's like to have some other folks who are also focused on other aspects of health and science.
What stories are you looking to tell in Philly?
Health is such an intimate topic. It affects us all. Without health, what do we have? And there are so many different dynamics that influence and affect that, so at the core of things is that. So sometimes when you get more into the realm of policy and politics, it can get a little more abstract, but trying to make those connections in terms of what are some of the policies here, and what are the issues that are in turn affecting the way that we get and access health care.
Looking at interests of aging and women's health and pharma is really big here, and so I'm really excited to learn more about that. I think that part of it, too, will be some of the challenge, but what's exciting is figuring out and finding my niche because I'm not totally sure what I'm getting myself into. With that comes a certain sense of excitement, getting out of your comfort zone, seeing things with fresh eyes.
What sold you on WHYY?
It's in the public-radio network, and again, it's having the chance to work with a health-science team that sold me. It just seems like a great place for me to grow, and I'm excited about that. I'm excited about getting to know the health landscape of a different part of our country. To learn more in that realm about health and policy and health access are all things I'm very, very fascinated with. So getting a chance to see how things work somewhere else is really exciting to me.
WHYY as a station is exciting to me in that it's a bigger newsroom; it's a bigger operation. They have a lot going on with their website. There's some TV, also, with the Delaware affiliate. And so it's just a really exciting chance to work with some new people and find out what another station looks like and how it works, and really delve in and use my creative and reporting skills in a new and different way. That's not to say KCUR doesn't have a lot of that going on. It does. It's a fantastic station.
How did you sell yourself to WHYY?
People know in the public-radio network about KCUR. And so reporters coming from there are well-respected. I think in this day and age, with all the complexities of health care especially, having that area of focus and interest really gave me a boost in their eyes. There's just so much going on in that beat, and it takes a certain kind of person to be interested in that. For me, the way radio tells stories or the way that we as people tell that story, how you find that story, how you find that character, how you really find that personal connection, and being creative about the ways that you tell stories - I think those are some of the things that I bring to a place, or hope to.
You say character, and I immediately think about your story on Midtown Superman. Who's faster, you or him?
We didn't race. I'm sure that he's faster. He, by far, has more endurance than I do. He runs every day, for hours on end, so he's got many more years under his belt, but he's got the psychology to it. It's not just the physical endurance but the psychological. He's in the zone. I'm a runner, informally. I try to run in the morning, but if I get two miles, I'm really happy for myself. But there's, like, that voice that comes in my head around that time that's like, "Just stop, stop." Where he's like, "Keep going, keep going."
Have you practiced your new sign-off?
I haven't, but I have been thinking about how it's W vs. K. East of the Mississippi, it's W's, and west are K's. I like KCUR. KCUR just has such a nice ring to it. WHYY is pretty great, too. I'm pretty excited about those call letters. It's the one that people recognize with Fresh Air and Terry Gross. That's how I often identify the station. But there's a lot more to it than that.
What story was the most rewarding for you?
It's hard to say what's most rewarding, but just being on the health beat and being at KCUR has been such a reward, in and of itself. I was first a listener of KC Currents. I'm KC Currents' No. 1 fan. So when I got to the station, I was like, "KC Currents, oh my God." And then I was like, "I can do stories for KC Currents? That's so cool." I didn't think about, when I started at the station, "Wait, I'm going to have to actually talk and be on air. Wait, what?" I didn't really process that.
What are you going to miss most about KC?
I'm going to miss morning coffee in midtown. All of KCK. M & M Bakery. Gardens on the West Side. Waking up to Michael Byars. Not literally - you know what I mean. Mardi Gras. The sounds of the trains going through the city. The music venues. I feel like I've been really busy this year, and I haven't been to as many local music shows as I've wanted. I didn't make it to Funkytown before I left. I hear that Philadelphia has a good dance scene, but I don't think anything can top Funkytown's dance scene.
I'm going to miss the City Market. That's a big one, especially this time of year with all of the produce starting to come in fresh. Violent weather. It's funny, when I got here, there was a tornado watch for the greater Philadelphia area. I thought that was really bizarre. I thought I escaped that.
The biggest thing is just missing people. On Christmas, I go to my friend's nanna and pop's for the holidays in Chillicothe. It's a good time. I haven't figured out if I'll make it back for that.
Is it too late to keep you here?
I'd say it's too late to get me back right now. I'm excited about what I'm doing. But who knows what will come in the next few years. It's a one-year position. I'm hoping it grows into something more. And, at the same time, I think that it's a really great opportunity for me to grow as a reporter and take things from there. It's entirely possible that I come back to Kansas City.