By Hanna Merzbach

Until participating in Next Generation Radio, I really took the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” method to journalism and ran with it. As a non-journalism major at a liberal arts school, I taught myself about interviewing, AP Style and journalistic ethics. I taught myself inDesign and audio basics. My teachers were other students who had also taught themselves. 

Running my college paper, I was an editor, a business manager, a publicist, a reporter, a web designer — the list goes on. If I wanted something done, a story written or a video posted, I often felt as if I had to do it myself.

Now as a first-time freelancer in the time of COVID-19, although I’m grateful to have some work, I often feel isolated. I haven’t met my editors, nor any of the other reporters. I send a story into a vortex every week or two and it somehow ends up published.

Needless to say, it was pretty nice to finally have a whole team of supporters and a sense of community this week with Next Generation Radio, even with it being online. I got a taste of what it feels like to be a part of a well-oiled machine, and — let me tell you — it feels pretty damn good. 

In interview mode

Don’t get me wrong. I think there is value in teaching yourself the craft and studying something other than journalism (international affairs, in my case). Though, this week, I really saw the value in being able to rely on others and learn from experts in the field.

In my experience, editing is not typically a collaborative process. Although, this week, I got to listen to my editors do their magic and talk through their process as they found the connecting tissue in my story and helped weave it together. Next time I go to write an audio script or an article, I will have their insights swirling around my head, helping me better represent the story.

The largest learning curve for me was with recording audio. Before this week, I had rarely used audio equipment, let alone held a boom pole for an hour-long interview with both headphones and a face mask on. Though with my trusty teachers by my side, I learned the basics of recording audio and felt confident in my abilities while doing it.

Most surprisingly, composing and editing my audio story was my favorite part of this week. Although I have some podcasting experience, most of my experience is in print media. I have always loved the sense of creation and finality of print, creating something physical and actually seeing that culmination of your work. 

Though, I realized this week, that print is often lacking. Some sentiments are just better captured with audio. I read through my written story and remember feeling, “Where’s that emotion, that humor and that sense of connection that was captured in my audio story?” I saw that I can still feel that sense of creation with audio that I have long felt with print, even if I am not creating something physical.

I have always worshiped legacy newspapers, dreaming of working at The New York Times or The Washington Post. Though after this week, I think I am a public radio convert.

So, thank you to my amazing mentor, Gabriela Saldivia, who was by side (figuratively) every step of the way this week. And thank you to everyone else with Next Generation Radio who gave me this incredible opportunity.

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