A month before the Next Generation Radio Program started, I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin. Upon graduation, I was running on a temporary high that shortly faded as I began to think about my future and the expectations people had of me.
I have always been very concerned of what others think of me. What am I worth? Do they know I don’t have a job? Will I make them proud with NO job? It is a constant pressure I put on myself. And this pressure slowly creeps in and discourages me as I try to achieve my goal: To become a local news reporter at an NPR member station.
Fortunately, NPR’s Next Generation Radio welcomed me the first day with a presentation that gave me the confidence to start my story. I found my magic and started reporting.
This week I felt like a radio reporter. I drove about 40 minutes from my newsroom with my mentor Crystal R. Chavez, a radio reporter in Orlando, to interview a woman who had a whirlwind of a year. She was diagnosed with cancer in June, started chemotherapy in July, moved to a new home on August 1st, later in the month her sister passed away. She was affected by Hurricane Harvey at the end of August and her house caught on fire due to electrical problems in December.
When I met Katoya Brocks and saw her step out of her car, I realized the strength and effort she had to make to attend the interview. She visited her house Jan. 9 for the first time since the fire. I remember her gripping her cane and calculating her every step as she gave us a tour of the remains of her home. I wanted to do her story justice.
Back in the newsroom and during my editing process I transcribed for hours, learned to use the “Reveal” story map to visually structure my story, cut down more than an hour of tape to about 3 minutes (with the help of my mentor) and learned to expertly mix down audio (with help of “the audio genius” Patrice Mondragon). While the editing process is fun it does not just finish there (with creating a story). It requires fact checking, looking for holes in the story and most importantly ensuring transparency/fairness. I want to give a special shout out to my editor, Phyllis Fletcher. Phyllis taught me to fact check my story by requesting a public record (which required many calls, emails and voicemails) and to be a fair and objective reporter (by asking for comment from the other side). These are skills that they teach you in J-school but it is not until you exercise them that you feel like a true reporter.
This amazing experience has made me feel like a real reporter. I didn’t just receive a journalism degree, I am a journalist. I did this story. I researched, interviewed, wrote, edited, mixed and fact-checked my story. I created magic!