NPR’s Morning Edition goes live from Oakland’s Youth Radio
on April 18, 2016
For one solid week, commuters around the country received their first news of the day from a small studio in downtown Oakland.
National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, one of the top drive-time radio shows in the country, recently came to Oakland and host David Greene worked out of the downtown studios of Youth Radio to broadcast the show and report daily news to the nation.
“This has been completely seamless and not a thing has gone wrong technically,” Greene said of his week at Youth Radio, “which is a testament to this place that is training so many young journalists.”
Youth Radio was Founded in 1992 in Berkeley and moved to current headquarters in Oakland in 2007. Initially, it was established to provide high school students an outlet for talking about their emotions, experiences and the challenges of growing up in an urban environment.
Youth Radio has since expanded to four bureaus around the country, where 3,000 features are produced per year, and its content is syndicated to more than 15 outlets. Students from all over the Bay Area apply for an initial six-month training program, which includes ten weeks of introductory courses followed by more advanced programs in which students can focus on a particular area of expertise. Student participants range from age 14 to their mid-20’s and come from as far away at Benecia and San Francisco, in addition to East Bay cities like Richmond and Oakland.
“It started out as a two-minute commentary on a local radio station and it’s just grown tremendously from there,” said Rebecca Martin, the Managing Editor of Youth Radio. “At its core, it’s about youth voice and youth expression.”
In addition to teaching the technical skills of radio production, the training programs featured at Youth Radio range from writing poetry to creating original music. “They’re learning the technology that goes into all this media-making, and we’ve been just growing. So as the industry changes, we change, and the young people really drive that,” Martin said.
After the training ends, students can apply for a paid internship that focuses on journalism and producing stories for NPR. Students are also allowed to engage in other parts of the organization, such as doing arts work or taking on social media and communications roles. In Oakland, each year 200 to 300 young people go on to part-time jobs through the program after training, according to Martin.
So when Greene decided to come to Oakland to host his morning show from the studios, there was already a talent pool there to assist him. “What makes this week special is that as a opposed to just submitting individual stories to NPR put on the air, we’re in a deep collaboration with host David Greene to really work together this entire week during the show’s production,” Martin said.
The week Morning Edition broadcast in Oakland— March 21 to 25—was particularly high-stakes because news broke of the terrorist attacks in Brussels. That put some pressure on the students to perform and it gave them insight into the fast pace twists of the business, Martin said. Martin said that they rose to the challenge: “It’s an amazing opportunity to be here with such a skeletal crew from NPR and have all this trust from our partners in DC.”
“Their questions about how to cover something like that were just absolutely sophisticated and savvy,” Greene agreed.
Kasey Saeturn, one of the student interns with Youth Radio, says she was recruited when they went to Oakland High School to conduct a workshop five years ago. “I stepped out of my comfort zone and have been here ever since,” she said. Saeturn is currently working on a story on the lack of affordable housing for students in San Francisco. “There’s this loophole where students can’t get public housing because of lack of priority,” she said, “As a student myself, I wanted to look into that.”
Saeturn believes that the programs at Youth Radio allowed her to access opportunities she was previously unaware of. “There’s so much available at Youth Radio,” she said, “I can go into radio journalism, broadcast journalism, or even become a culinary chef.”
One day after finishing the morning production in Oakland, Greene recalled a recent interview with British columnist Helen Fielding about the evolving nature of journalism and technology. Her longtime paper, The Independent, went from print to digital this February. Thinking of the interview, Greene spoke of the uncertainty about the future of the business. “From a former print journalist talking to a former columnist about the demise of many print newspapers, it got really sad,” he said.
But despite a changing media landscape, Greene said he is optimistic about the future of Youth Radio. “How audiences listen, read, and interact with people in the media is completely changing,” he said. “But to see a place that both is really innovative and experimenting with all the new toys of journalism, but remains absolutely committed to kind of the fundamentals of what we do, is just magical. It really gives me hope for the future of our profession.”
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