Meet the Staff

Robert Armengol, Editor

Robert snuck into BackStory, and back into the media, after pulling off a doctorate in anthropology at the University of Virginia. Before that, he worked as a beat reporter at Bloomberg News and The Intelligencer, in Bucks County, Pa., where he covered the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks and co-wrote a series unearthing the history behind massive groundwater contamination.

For his dissertation, Robert lived in Cuba for two years on a Fulbright fellowship, rode around on a rickety bike and hung out with a lot of crafty entrepreneurs. He has taught college courses at UVa and elsewhere  on culture, markets, globalization, politics and the media. His prior radio experience includes endless hours of reading in character to his kids at bedtime.

If he were a moment in U.S. history, Robert would be the mysterious explosion of the USS Maine in the bay of Havana, in 1898 — then maybe he’d tell us what really happened.

Nina Earnest, Associate Producer

Nina joins the BackStory crew as a Midwest transplant, where she learned to appreciate small towns and the Iowa Hawkeyes. After majoring in journalism and international studies at the University of Iowa, she worked at the Delegation of the European Union in Washington, D.C. She has also interned at WNPR in Connecticut and NPR.

If Nina were a moment in American history, she’d be shipping off to challenge Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland on their 80-day race around the world. 

Tony Field, Senior Producer

Tony always wondered why there weren’t any history shows on public radio. Then along came Ed, Peter, and Brian. They told him they were “the History Guys.” He was skeptical, but took their word for it. So far, they have him convinced.

Born and bred in the wilds of New Jersey, Tony moved to Virginia in early 2008 to launch BackStory. Before that, he lived in New York City and worked as a producer for NPR’s Peabody Award-winning On the Media. Tony has worked in radio since 2000, when he walked through the doors of WBUR in Boston and was handed a reel of tape and a razor blade to cut it with. Turns out it was one of the last razor blades in the business.

If Tony were a moment in American history, he would be the lean, hungry, wandering years of Cabeza de Vaca, barefooting through deserts from prickly-pear to prickly pear, seeking and healing, seeking and healing…

Emily Gadek, Digital Producer

Emily came to BackStory after a year wandering the high desert of Southern California. A graduate of Macalester College and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she has worked with WBEZ, KALW and Life of the Law. She has also produced her own popular history podcast, Footnote. As digital producer, she’s on the hunt to find a delightful .gif for most every historic occasion.

If Emily were a moment in American history, she’d be Alexander Graham Bell working feverishly through the night to build a machine that could find the bullet lodged in President Garfield’s back.

Kelly Hardcastle Jones, Associate Producer

Kelly joins the BackStory team after a brief and sordid affair with graduate-level philosophy in Guelph, Canada. In her spare time, she started a nationally syndicated radio show and podcast called Pioneer Radio, got some training at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, won a Third Coast Short Doc award for a three-minute piece about poutine, produced a documentary for the BBC about firearm suicide, and started a family. Let’s just say Kelly didn’t make a whole lot of progress on that Ph.D. Turns out that radio is much more fun.

If Kelly were a moment in U.S. history, she’d be the synapses wildly firing in Carl Sagan’s 5-year-old brain on the day he received his first library card.

Jamal Millner, Technical Director

Before joining BackStory, Jamal spent 20 years as a professional guitarist, producer and composer touring North America, Africa, Australia and Europe. He has performed with Taj Mahal, Vusi Mahlasela, Ali Farka Toure’, Dave Matthews Band, Corey Harris, John Jackson, Nicholas Payton, and countless others on stage and in the studio. Jamal has performed at the Montreaux Jazz Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Bonnaroo, Byron Bay Blues Festival, San Francisco Jazz Festival, and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Jamal is also an accomplished audio engineer with credits on numerous works in various genres and forms of media.

If Jamal was a moment in history, he’d be listening in person to Thelonius Monk and John Coltrane between July and December of 1957, during the band’s residency at New York’s legendary Five Spot Cafe — near Cooper Square.

Andrew Parsons, Associate Producer

Before joining BackStory, Andrew worked with a variety of public radio outlets including The Story with Dick Gordon, Marketplace, On The Media, Murray Street Productions and NPR’s newscast division. He also spent a summer poking his microphone into prisons around the country for Appalshop’s Prison Poetry Radio series. Andrew considers public radio an extension of his previous career as an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn, New York, but with fewer runny noses and awesome lunch boxes. He’s originally from Scranton, Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Syracuse University and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

If Andrew were a moment in history, he’d be the first meager whiskers poking through Lincoln’s face acknowledging Grace Bedell’s eternal wisdom that everyone fancies a beard.

Andrew Wyndham, Executive Producer

BackStory‘s own back story goes back to August 2005. As VFH’s Director of Media Programs, Andrew broached the idea of bringing Ed Ayers and Peter Onuf together to create a call-in radio program that was prospectively called “The History Guys” and then became “The History Hotline.” At Ed and Peter’s suggestion, Brian Balogh was immediately drafted for the team and, over the next three years Andrew and other staff worked with the “fab three” on an R&D phase that included numerous studio sessions and several on-air gigs, leading up to the completion of a demo program. Andrew raised the funds to make the program fly for real and, in early 2008, recruited the show’s producers, who have made BackStory the highly produced, topical program that it is today.

Born in England of Polish-Irish parents, Andrew executive-produces other VFH Radio programs, including With Good Reason. He organized, directed and raised funds for the award-winning Re-Imagining Ireland conference and festival, directed a related documentary video, and edited a companion book. Andrew also coordinated the Southern Humanities Media Fund for much of its history and has coordinated various other VFH activities and programs, including the Center for Media and Culture; a major conference on Irish Film; the VFH Fellowship Program; and a Humanities Resource Service.

If Andrew were a moment in American history, he’d be any of the annual naturalization ceremonies at Monticello, or Feb. 9, 1964.