— Doug Mitchell (@nextgenradio) March 17, 2016
A college student’s relief after midterms: spring break.
But not for me. I spent my spring break running my butt off for the Next Generation Radio project.
It started when I received the first email from my mentor — beer enthusiast and KCRW producer Jolie Myers. All of a sudden, my life took a hard turn and I fell anxiously into a burning pot that I myself had signed up for. I needed to pitch three story ideas and produce one of those ideas into a multimedia piece in one week. I looked around and heard everybody’s plan for spring break; Cabo, New York, London… I asked myself, “What have I signed myself up for?”
Just kidding. That was not the case at all.
Here’s the real story:
I did not have a set plan for what I wanted to do with my spring break until I saw an email from Cyrice Griffith, program manager at USC Annenberg’s Institute for Diversity and Empowerment, about this awesome spring break opportunity NPR’s #NextGenRadio. I love to keep myself busy and be productive with my down time. So I was elated to find an invitation email to join the program with four other amazing student journalists. And of course, beyond excited when I got an email from my mentor about what was next in store for this intense journalism training.
It was great to have that first phone conversation with Jolie about story ideas in between my classes. Not as great as this burger though.
The burger was (arguably) only great because it was served at our first informal dinner with every member of this amazing project. I already had a great feeling about this group of aspiring and energized journalists the first time I met everybody.
But it didn’t really sink until my alarm went off at 8 a.m. that first day of the program: I was going to have to produce a multimedia story in one week; a week which was supposed to be be a break from craziness.
Here are some things that I learned over the week broken down by day:
As promised, here’s a picture of free food from Day 1. (Menu: Chocolate muffin and OJ)
Day 1 Lessons:
Keep an open mind about your pitches. We initially pitched a story that is slightly related but completely different from the end product of our #nextgenradio piece.
BONUS: Tweet! Tweet! Tweet! (No, it’s not a bird.) My mentor first discovered the protest we covered on Twitter. And that tweet ended up becoming our core story. I was able to tweet at the organization (it has 4,000+ followers) and it retweeted all my tweets about the story, helping me reach a much bigger audience than I thought I could.
Day 2 Lessons:
Log your tape, verbatim if you have time. You never know what your story could be if you don’t know every thing you got in the field. Listening to the interviews helped refresh my story focus. Also, thanks to technology, you could just command/control + F to find THE soundbite that you want to use to tell the story, especially when it is a non-narrative piece.
BONUS: Kindergarten-Style Boards of Achievement work. The more Xs you get on the board not only shows that you are winning, but also gives you the motivation to get more Xs because you are that close to being done with your project.
Day 3 Lessons:
Find your story, craft it and start editing. Knowing the backbone of your story is so important. Outlining helps you make sure you are not wasting time cutting out soundbites that you don’t need. Try telling your story in one sentence. Change, scratch, or add to your focus statement and start finding soundbites that help you tell that story. It is so important to know what your story is about, and the rest will just come naturally.
Day 4 Lessons:
Volume can be hot. Who knew making radio is just like baking? You’ve done the shopping (reporting), the pulling ingredients out of your shopping bag (logging tape), the mixing and matching (finding your story structure), using cookie cutters to make the product look pretty (editing audio) and now, finally, you are ready to bake it. I learned that volume can be described as heat waves, the louder the audio is the hotter the sound wave is. With amazing touches by our awesome DJ Drew, filtering through hot and cold waves, your radio piece is now ready to be served… I mean to be heard.
This may not be the most chill spring break and maybe not everybody’s ideal spring break, but to me, it was my big break before I hit the road, follow my passion, and tell more stories.