Weeklong Bootcamp Gives Aspiring Journalists One-on-One Training for Future Careers in Public Media
Six journalism students from Central Texas universities spent a weeklong “bootcamp” working alongside professional journalists – including four from KUT 90.5 and KUTX 98.9 – to hone their multimedia storytelling skills.
Next Generation Radio Project is a one-week, college student-focused, multimedia training project co-sponsored by NPR, NPR member stations and academic institutions around the country. The Austin project was sponsored by KUT and KUTX, and the School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin and took place the week of August 14. The primary goal is to find and train the next generation of journalists for careers in public media.
This bootcamp pairs aspiring journalists with working journalists for a week to conceive, report, produce and edit a character-driven multimedia story. In addition to the one-on-one training, the week included sessions on story pitching, audio field recording, photography and videography, script writing and editing, and multi-track mixing.
The week kicked-off with student journalists pitching story ideas pegged to the theme of unique jobs. Students prepared questions, conducted and recorded interviews in the field, and took photos. Then the real work began as students went through the difficult work of turning an hour or more of raw audio into a compelling radio story.
“I spent the week paired with Jennifer Stayton who helped me navigate the process for audio storytelling, which is different from online and print stories,” said Maria Mendez, a junior studying journalism and sociology at the University of Texas who also writes for the student newspaper, “The Daily Texan.”
Maria’s story profiled a full-time ventriloquist based in San Marcos.
“Lots of interesting facts came up during our interview, and Jennifer helped me decide which soundbites to edit out to keep the story focused on the topic, so there were many anecdotes that didn’t make it into the final story.”
Maria said the Next Generation Radio experience was “as real life as it can get for a student journalist.”
“Throughout the week I had to jump through a lot of hurdles while working against tight deadlines and some of my ideas didn’t work out,” she said. “In comparison, I typically have a week or two to complete a story in my journalism classes.”
Sierra Juarez, a University of Texas junior studying journalism with aspirations to someday report on Latin America for American audiences, said her one-on-one time with Kate McGee of WAMU in Washington, D.C. (formerly of KUT 90.5) was irreplaceable.
Sierra spent the week producing a story about an Austin couple who creates custom mermaid tails for clients all over the world.
“I’ve had internships where I’ve been given the tools and set loose to cover a story,” said Sierra. “The difference with this weeklong training was that Kate worked alongside me through every step of the storytelling process – it makes a huge difference having someone coaching you out in the field.”
While she learned new technical abilities and refined her reporting skills, the most valuable lesson Sierra learned during the week was less tangible.
“The Next Generation Radio Project taught me a lot of practical skills, but the week also taught me to have fun with my stories,” she said. “The best audio came from fun, unscripted questions where I was having a real conversation with my subject and not focused on technical issues like audio levels.
“This week has only made me stronger in my conviction to pursue journalism, and for that, I’ll always be grateful to my mentors and the Next Generation Radio program,” Sierra said.
Learn more about the Next-Generation Radio Project. Follow it on Twitter @nextgenradio and #nextgenradio