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KFAI's 2012 Summer Youth Interns Graduate into Reporters
continued from KFAI Network - August 2012 , article by Colleen Powers
YNI does that by training its participants in news research, reporting, creative writing, voice training, producing, and editing for radio production and broadcast. The program is intensive: The students met at the station three days a week, three hours each day, for eight weeks to gain direct skills and experience.
YNI’s coordinators used a few outreach methods to recruit students this year, including doing workshops on storytelling and radio production in high schools that doubled as YNI promotion. KFAI also sent out brochures and e-mails to schools and community organizations working with teens of color, as well as English teachers at Twin Cities schools.
When the participants first arrived at the beginning of the summer, Emily says, lessons focused on the basics of journalism and media literacy, enhanced by visits from guest speakers and field trips to the studios of such Twin Cities media sources as Minnesota Public Radio and Minneapolis Television Network. The students also collaborated on group projects, including interviewing local youth working on a mural, and began to learn the tools of radio production.
As time went on, the youth began to spend more time working individually on what would be their primary achievement of the summer: short radio pieces on the topic of their choice. That involved doing research and interviews, writing and recording their stories, and editing what they had into finished products.
Emily says that the students were encouraged to focus on issues that mattered personally to them. "We had them listen to youth radio pieces from other radio programs, both locally and nationally, as a way to help them better understand what they were interested in," she explains. PSAs they did as an early project also helped them consider the ideas they might want to explore: “They were all about misrepresentation of their own communities, and making PSAs to counter that. That helped them brainstorm, too.”
Helping refine those topic choices, as well as offering guidance overall in the production and development of the final pieces, were the participants’ mentors: community members and professionals who offered their expertise one-on-one.
This year’s mentors were MPR host and journalist Toni Randolph; Nekessa Opoti, who voices a program about immigrants on AM 950; Ashley Fairbanks of the Minnesota Historical Society and American Indian Opportunities Industrialization Center; Laura Waterman Wittstock, founder of Native American media nonprofit MIGIZI Communications; Jim Rudolf, who has a background in software engineering, hosts news updates for KFAI and has contributed to The Wave Project; Sarah Lutman, formerly of American Public Media and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Gregory Pratt, until recently a news reporter for City Pages; and Zuhur Ahmed, founder of KFAI’s “Somali Community Link.”
The final projects will air this September during a morning news and music program, but they’re available now to listen to on KFAI’s website. It’s possible to take in all six pieces--each one no more than five or six minutes long--in quick succession, allowing the listener to appreciate the variety of backgrounds and opinions represented within even the small circle of YNI.
Some of the pieces take a national story or currently contentious issue as a starting point and bring it to a local and personal level. Ayinde Abanu’s “Stop & Frisk Policies in Minneapolis,” for instance, starts by noting protests against the New York Police Department’s practices before wondering whether such policies exist and are a problem in Minnesota. Then he moves in even closer, interviewing his own father about being stopped, frisked, and beaten up by police officers.
Others throw themselves into that intimacy from the start, as with Karen Xiong’s reflection “Teen Depression.” The piece opens with a song clip before Karen’s voice breaks in with raw, poetic statements about her own struggle with depression. Only after describing what depression felt like to her does she move on to interviewing the Minnesota executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness about official definitions and statistics.
The projects also demonstrate how the students learned to use sounds other than speaking to tell their stories, and to edit together what they recorded with professional-sounding seamlessness. Satta Kendor’s exploration of “Stereotypes of Country and Rap Music” features a hilariously clever use of music clips: It opens with the kind of melodramatic opera that signals a clash of titans, then segues into a country song and a rap track playing at the same time. A showdown is declared before anyone says a word.
And in all of the pieces, whether it’s Ahmad Aly’s “Underage Drinking,” Nansi Perez’s “A Male Perspective on Abortion,” or David McCoy’s “Technology and the Development of Individuality,” the personality and youthful perspective of the producer is clear. Each student lets the listener know just how he or she feels about the topic at hand.
As co-supervisor, Emily says, she’s proud of how the students’ projects turned out. “A lot of them were new to producing radio or media pieces, and to the idea that their story is important, their look at their community and the media is important, and their voice should be heard,” Emily says. “Working on building their confidence, and to interview other people and to kind of inspect the world around them, even if they’re never going to be journalists--all of that was exciting to see.”
The students were happy with their pieces, too, and with the program overall--all six graduates wrote on the YNI blog that they enjoyed the experience. The most ringing endorsement, though, might have come earlier in the year: After the group’s field trip to MPR, Ahmad wrote a rave review and said, “Around this time last year I would be sitting on my butt on my [couch] watching TV, but this summer I have visited a lot of great places.”
If she could change anything about the program in the future, Emily says, she might start later in the day--“Some of them were yawning for the first hour”--and give the students more time to polish their final projects.
But it’s still most important for the students’ work to simply be heard. “It’d be great if everyone could listen to the pieces and other youth pieces that have been made at KFAI and continue to support youth voices,” Emily says. “I think they offer a really cool perspective, versus another journalist doing the same story. It’s a different and important perspective.”
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