Janelle and Laura

Janelle and Laura

A primer on radio reporting

Nobody in my life, except maybe a couple people, really understand what I’m doing career-wise.

“Congrats on your internship with NPR!” (This isn’t an internship, I bit back. Maybe later, but not now.)

“I hope your radio thing is going well!” (Thank you! But also…It’s a program. Not a thing.)

Apparently that’s really common. Tuesday night, when the mentees piled into a five-seater and went to hot pot for dinner, we found that few of our family and friends really understood our career aspirations.

After taking part in Next Generation Radio, here’s what I can tell them about radio reporting:

Stories fall through.

The weekend before the program began, I was already scrambling to find another story because my subject couldn’t meet Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday. To find the story in the first place took four days, wandering around Meadowview on foot, subverting my introversion, and an email pep talk from my coworker.

Scheduling in-person interviews is tough.

It hurts. The kind of cry-in-your-car, listening to Taylor Swift’s “I Forgot That You Existed” on full blast while riding away from Meadowview after leaving (ostensibly) five million voicemails and getting “Sorry, I can’t help you” replies. Shout out to Laura, my mentor, who has impeccable music taste and inserted the Taylor Swift Tiny Desk concert into our Wednesday break before we got shut down for creating too much of a ruckus.

Having the in-person interview is physically tough.

Not only did I learn how to use a recorder and hold a shotgun mic the right way, I held it up for an hour. Because my background is almost entirely in print, I didn’t expect to wake up the day after my interview with burning arms. Clearly, for radio, I need to go to a climbing gym and lift more weights.

Newsrooms are families.

Coming into the program, I was overwhelmed because my only experience with audio was working on a podcast. After the first day, when I realized I was the only person under 21, I felt worse. Story stress, having to rush to finish on Friday, seeing everyone leave early on Thursday, and feeling like a burden culminated in a bathroom stall panic attack.

But Laura and Angelica distracted me from everything by taking me aside and playing Jenga. The newsroom surprised me with cupcakes for my birthday. The mentees swapped stories in Shaylyn and Angelica’s room, an oasis in the middle of the week. And everyone kept reassuring me that everything was okay.

I’m walking away with memories and technical knowledge. Even if not all my family and friends understand journalism, to both radio and print I say, “You Belong With Me.”