Three days after orientation weekend with Fi2W, I was scrolling through Twitter when I saw a tweet that caught my attention. It was a tweet that made me chuckle to myself. But it was also one of those tweets that was a real foreshadowing into the next two months of this fellowship. It said:
“Public radio reporting be like:
Research this complex, highly nuanced issue for weeks or maybe even a month. Collected HOURS of tape from lots of sources. NOW tell me that story in under 4 minutes and make it factual, dramatic and entertaining.”
I laughed, but it wouldn’t be long until I learned that @LeeVGaines was right. I’ve spent weeks working on my first audio feature story, and everything that @LeeVGaines said is true.
Despite having a journalism background, I’m learning completely new skills in a short amount of time. A little over two months, to be exact. Some of it is technical, like making sure my recorder is set up properly before going out in to the field to conduct interviews. Or learning how to hold a microphone. Then there’s the iterative writing process. I’ve re-written my script about 5 or 6 times. It’s forced me to shift how I’m used to writing, which is for print and web. Sometimes, iteration has meant conducting more interviews, or re-doing interviews with the original subjects. And once the script is approved (notice I didn’t say finished because, let’s face it, is writing ever really finished?), then it’s getting into the actual cutting for the track. That has also meant being introduced to a new program. And, most recently, under the guidance of my mentor, I’ve experienced what it’s like to read for my own story. Now, I have to force myself to get over the anxiety of hearing my own voice on the radio.
Part of a series of essays by journalists in the Feet in 2 Worlds food journalism fellowship at WDET.
Outside of learning a new way of reporting and storytelling, I’ve noticed how much self-reflection I’ve been doing. I’ve been thinking about my identity – as a journalist and a storyteller. I never imagined myself doing any type of storytelling outside of writing. But now, since going through this fellowship, I’ve been willing to explore other potential avenues. Now, when I think of potential story ideas, I think about how a potential subject might sound over a soundbite as opposed to text. Or the type of ambient noise I could capture. But it’s even challenging me as a writer. Over the course of this year, even before this fellowship, I’ve been working on improving my writing voice and style.
As a reporter, I’ve been even more mindful about how I interface with, and represent the community that I’m covering. I want to show my subjects that I am open to learning from them because my ultimate goal is to be of service – to help tell their story. Although this fellowship is focused on immigrants and people of color, we are not homogeneous. Even though I am a black woman who wants to tell the stories of other black people, my experience as a black woman is not completely the same as another black woman, or black man. Sure, there are cultural similarities and understandings, but there are things I can learn and absorb from my subjects, too. The fellowship has also made me more determined to bring more stories about people of color to the forefront. But the challenge I think about is, where can I find these stories, and where is the right home for these stories? That’s where the importance of alternative media comes in. It’s something I recognized, but it didn’t really hit home until going through this process.
Support for the fellowship comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Michigan Council of Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) and through matching gifts from station donors, The International Association of Culinary Professionals’ foundation, The Culinary Trust, and its Growing Leaders Food Writing program. The Food Writing Program is funded with the support of the Boston Foundation.
Fi2W is supported by the David and Katherine Moore Family Foundation, the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The J.M. Kaplan Fund, an anonymous donor and readers like you.