Program give hands-on experience in audio storytelling
New Generation Radio is a series of one-week radio training programs co-sponsored by National Public Radio (NPR) member stations, such as Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), and such journalism and media organizations as the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). It began in the mid-1990s. MPR General Assignment Reporter Laura Yuen told the MSR in a recent interview that she first met founder Doug Mitchell at a 2012 workshop.
“He got MPR involved last year, and he asked me to become a mentor,” she recalled. She said the program can be intensive and boot-camp like. This year’s “boot camp” at MPR is scheduled for September 18-24.
“We need young people — especially young people of color and young people who have different experiences than those of us who are already in this industry,” explained Yuen, whose beat is the Twin Cities metro area. People who are in the community “that we are not adequately covering right now” and want to be there is desperately needed, she pointed out. “We want young reporters to be in places where we all can benefit from being observers.”
New Generation Radio is an all-expenses-paid opportunity: travel, lodging, meals. “It is a pretty amazing opportunity to get to learn from working professionals in public radio on how to craft these stories,” said Yuen. “Last year we geared toward college students, and this year [it is for] people who are already journalists and have three years’ experience or less.”
The participants bring ideas in hopes that it is acceptable to work on. “You come to Minnesota with your own story idea. You only have a week to do everything — interviews, the reporting, the writing and the production to put a story in the kind of form that MPR” can air during a newscast, noted Yuen. Prior to coming to MPR, Yuen worked as a print journalist for eight years.
“I certainly would have benefited from something like this,” she said. “I appreciated the audio storytelling but until I came here, I didn’t know the first thing [about] how to package a piece and tell a story, how it sounds and voices [as opposed] to words on a page. I think it is an incredible experience.”
There were six participants last year that got their stories aired on MPR. “These participants are out in the field, talking to people and learning the basics of sound recording,” said Yuen. “They are talking to their mentors about story development, what questions to ask and the angles to the story, and they produce it.” The main focus last year was on “first-person accounts with the people they interviewed. We encouraged them to tell a story about a person. We had some really cool topics last year.”
As a first-time mentor last year, Yuen remembers the young female from Milwaukee she worked with who lacked confidence “but she had the skills to be a journalist. She wanted to pursue radio journalism. You don’t get [hands-on experience] in journalism schools. I think all of us learn much more from our internships.”
The experience can serve as a “pipeline” for MPR or elsewhere in public radio, but Yuen added that participating in New Generation Radio does not guarantee employment afterwards. Nonetheless, she said the participants can bring “a lot of humanity” to producing stories to air on public radio.
“Public radio and public media in general is for all people, and if our ranks and content does not reflect that then we are not doing our job,” said Yuen. “This is a great opportunity for young people,” especially Blacks and other people of color.
For more information on New Generation Radio and its 2016 program, go to www.npr.org.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.