Meet the Staff

Emily Charnock, Assistant Producer

Emily is learning the radio ropes after many years ensconced in the library, working on her doctorate in American Politics.  Though hailing from the United Kingdom, she has, for unknown reasons, always been passionate about American political history, and is excited to be putting that interest to good use at BackStory.  She recently graduated from the University of Virginia with her PhD, capping off a transatlantic education that began at the University of Oxford, where she studied Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. In her other life as an academic, she studies the rise of Political Action Committees and their impact on national politics in the wake of the New Deal.

If Emily were a moment in American history, she’d be watching General Cornwallis as he looked out from Yorktown..and saw the French fleet sailing up the Chesapeake Bay.

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 joins BackStory after interning 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. 

Jess Engebretson, Producer

Jess comes to BackStory from a stint training radio journalism students in Liberia, where she focused on human rights reporting and occasionally freelanced for PRI’s The World. Prior to that, she spent a year exploring radio and reconciliation in Indonesia, Liberia, and Rwanda as a Watson Fellow. Jess got her feet wet in radio while a student at Swarthmore College, working with War News Radio and the Sudan Radio Project. When not firmly ensconced in the studio there, she studied English literature and philosophy.

If Jess were a moment in American history, she’d be the first, meandering steps of Harriet Chalmers Adams’ long journey south.

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…

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-December of 1957, during the band’s  residency at New York’s legendary Five Spot club – 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 backstory goes back to August 2005, when Andrew, VFH’s Director of Media Programs, who knew Ed Ayers and Peter Onuf, broached the idea of bringing them together to create a call-in radio program that was prospectively called “The History Guys” and then became “The History Hotline.” At Ed’s 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 organized or 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 February 9, 1964.