Saltcast featured on iTunes

We love it when great work gets recognized.  Those of you who happened on the iTunes podcast page today may have noticed Saltcast featured right up top.  The bi-weekly podcast – “The Backstory to Great Radio Storytelling” – is produced by Rob Rosenthal for the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and PRX.org.  Horn tooting definitely in order!

Look closely, and you’ll find another podcast that calls PRX home: BackStory with the American History Guys. Thanks, iTunes!

Getting Stories to New Ears: What Youth Radio Groups are Thinking

Youth radio groups have contributed some 1,300 pieces to the PRX catalogue.  But who are young producers making their stories for?  How do they share those stories post production? And who is listening?

The questions were prompted by a panel presentation I was asked to give at the Digital Media & Learning conference on the high concept notions of learning, distribution and empowerment.  Generation PRX works with some 50 youth radio group and hundreds of youth producers.  We know how empowering finding your own voice can be.  But who is listening to those voices?

To find out, I interviewed youth producers and teachers,  I sent around an online poll for youth producers, and I emailed questions to youth radio teachers.  Here are some of the most interesting findings:

Interviews with youth radio group leaders and youth producers  helped round out the picture. In particular, nearly every youth radio leader expressed a desire to have distribution more integrated into teaching radio overall.  Many were looking for new ways to get youth listening to each others’ work and found creative ways – like listening parties, or using previous student work in teaching – to do so.

At least one youth producer commented that while youth do get trained in making stories, they need the next layer: Knowing how to distribute their work and pitch their stories to shows and programs that have established audiences.  Another producer who began in youth radio and now runs her own multimedia site showed how important distribution is: She explained that with new media, you’re not just distributing content, “you’re distributing yourself.” Her radio work contributes to entire online persona, which she carefully curates.  Distribution isn’t the end product; it’s the whole process.

So, what can youth radio groups – and producers in general – conclude from all this?

  • Think beyond production, integrating distribution – and the notion of a public – into teaching from the start.
  • Think multiple channels. Public radio stations license via PRX, but so do a long list of outside purchasers (including YouthCast and REMIX Radio): Have you opted in?  Promote your audio via your website and social networks.
  • Engage youth as leaders and advocates for their work: Where can it be repurposed? Who is the audience and how will they hear it?
  • Develop the concept of a public profileParticipatory culture means you are anything-associated-with-you-in-a-Google search.  Sharing your radio work means showing off your skills (and PRX has great Google rankings).
  • Use PRX to track pieces after they air (recently released embeddable audio players will also allow those pieces to be shared more easily).

Interviews also showed what a pivotal role PRX serves for these groups, though in ways that might not be obvious.  While distribution via PRX serves a crucial function, the site offers two additional benefits.  First, the public profile of pieces in a professional context can have a huge impact on group momentum.  As one example: At WHJE in Carmel, Indiana, the class votes at the end of each 9-week term to elect which few pieces  – out of 40 – will represent the group on PRX.  Second, comments are highly motivating for youth producers.  As one wrote, “Whenever I received comments on PRX, I took the time to personally email the commenter/reviewer with a message of thanks. That way, they may be more inclined to show the piece around.”

In the end, we were reminded – as we always are – why we love youth radio so much.  To the question, “What should people understand (but don’t yet) about sharing youth radio stories,” we heard this:

That youth radio is a lot better than it gets credit for much of the time. I think it’s kind of annoying when older radio producers listen to youth radio with lower expectations. Or that youth can sometimes become a selling point, in a way. Like, “This is interesting because s/he is fourteen,” not “this is interesting because it’s real and honest.” You know what I mean? Maybe I’m not making much sense. But it’s one in the morning, so I’m allowed to be crazy, yes?

Great Northeast Radio Rally and Audio Slam

While it’s true that Maine doesn’t top most people’s vacation destinations in January (it’s 22 degrees there today), a hearty, intrepid, and inspiring group of producers gathered in Portland on Sunday for the first ever Great Northeast Radio Rally, organized by Portland’s own Blunt Youth Radio Project.

Radio Rookies, from left, Sanda Hyte, Vicky Cruz, AJ Frazier and Veralyn Williams
Highlights included a listening session with the Radio Rookies, “Sonic Science Reporting & Multimedia” with Boston-based producer Ari Daniel Shapiro, Pitching to NPR with Eastern Bureau Chief Andrea DeLeon and producer Josh Gleason and, “Youth-Made Radio: Changing media, changing lives,” with Generation PRX, Terrascope Youth Radio and Blunt Radio.

The event culminated with what promises to be a new, fun way to showcase radio: The Audio Slam. Modeled after a poetry slam, producers competed in four rounds, with judges weighing in after each producer’s minute-long clip. From 25 contestants to the final round of four – it was an exciting, edge-of-your-seat event. The $500 grand prize went to Radio Rookie AJ Frazier for his piece, “Promotion in Doubt.”

YouthCast’s Molly Adams on Jeopardy(!)

Molly Adams on Jeopardy

We’re always impressed with YouthCast host, Vocalo morning co-host and all ’round awesome Molly Adams. But last week she went national: Molly was on Jeopardy. Yes, that Jeopardy. 9-million-viewers-a-day, originator of the da-da-da-dam why-are-you-taking-so-long music, upside down answer/question format Jeopardy.

And while Molly didn’t win the game, she did go into Final Jeopardy with the lead and went down with characteristic style (captured in the clip below). For $500, who rocks the YouthCast bells? Molly Adams.

Fresh Greens: Teens and the Environment

Fresh Greens: Teens & the Environment has arrived. The new collaboration from New Hampshire Public Radio, Terrascope Youth Radio and Generation PRX features stories from young people that consider what it means to think about our daily impact on the planet.

Fresh GreensAnd what does it mean to be green? Listen to Fresh Greens and youth producers will tell you: It’s owning up to being an “energy brat” in the context of immigration, noticing how corn syrup shows up in all your favorite snacks, or facing environmental activism on your own terms. Featuring stories from teens across the country and an interview with Special Advisor to the White House Council on Environmental Quality Van Jones, Fresh Greens is a different kind of environmental radio.

Listen on PRX, then leave a comment, share it, or buy it for your station. You can also meet the producers on NHPR.

Produced by Kelly Horan and hosted by Hichem Hadjeres and Manon Bonnet of Terrascope Youth Radio, Fresh Greens features stories from across the wide world of youth radio: Terrascope Youth Radio (Cambridge, MA), Youth Radio (Oakland, CA), Youth Spin (Austin, TX), Blunt Youth Radio (Portland, ME), OutLoud Radio (San Francisco, CA) and Alaska Teen Media Institute (Anchorage, AK).

NFCB, The Synopsis

Want to know why these youth producers are posing with Jim Lehrer?  Read on...
Want to know why these youth producers are posing with Jim Lehrer? Read on...
Photo: Brett Myers/Youth Radio

As a youth media person, I’m always most interested in the *surprise!* youth media track at the National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference. And though this year’s gathering on April 1-5th was no exception – presentations from June Fox of DEI on fund raising and Brett Myers of Youth Radio on Storytelling in Sound and Pictures were highlights – the smaller numbers of youth gave me the chance to mingle with some of the bigger kids, and I learned a lot here, too.

Web 2.0 discussions abounded, with some particularly thought-provoking points emerging out of the “Looking Ahead: Radio in 5 Years” panel, moderated by Peggy Berryhill of Native Public Media and featuring Mark Fuerst (Innovation4Media), Rebecca Martin (Youth Radio), Skip Pizzi (media technology consultant) and Norm Stockwell (WORT, Madison). Mark talked frankly about how radio is in decline, and how stations should focus not on being the builders of social media or new services (a fairly brave thing to say to a station crowd!) so much as collaborating with online providers. Mark also lamented the U.S.’s out-of-date legislation which gives a majority of public money to the failing public TV sector and advocated for the CBC model, which devotes 3% of its budget to new media (and quickly became a destination after doing so).

Rebecca, of Youth Radio (which, tellingly, is renaming itself Youth Media International), gave a compelling overview of YR’s cross-media approach. The organization is both agile and willing to experiment with new projects, and their focus is on what they call “the spread:” launching video/photo/audio bits that are short, modular and portable on multiple sites. Notably, all of their producer kits now include a still camera and a Flip video camera.

Skip Pizzi summarized the panel’s general emphasis on content over platform by saying, “radio is what you do, not what you are.” All cautioned against getting too attached to any particular delivery method.

Sue Schardt, president of AIR, the Association of Independents in Radio, moderated an interesting panel on “Moving Audience, Shaping the Sound of Tomorrow” which featured Makers Quest winner/KUOW Producer/GPRX collaborator Jenny Asarnow, WFUV DJ Trent Wolbe, who’s been doing remote live broadcasts via IP technology, and Hammad Ahmed, whose project http://jackstraw.org/radiolingual has some really interesting models of participatory audio and language learning.

All of this good material, but only the youth media track featured an icebreaker involving personal facts and a roll of toilet paper. Youth producers from Terrascope Youth Radio, Youth Radio and Hopi High left with an understanding of distribution options and peer feedback through PRX, new tools for finding money and hands-on cross-media experience. On day two, youth producers documented a trip to legendary local establishment Voodoo Donuts and trekked to Oregon Public Broadcasting for an interview with station manager Steve Bass and a surprise, impromptu visit from the host of PBS’ Lehrer News Hour, Jim Lehrer. See more photos on the Youth Radio flickr page.

Want to know why these youth producers are posing with Jim Lehrer?  Read on...
GPRX Director Jones Franzel poses with Hopi High members (L to R) Hannah Honani, Paul Quamahongnewa, Fawn Lomakema, Jones Franzel, Stan Bindell, Tarrah Tewanema, Nicole Sockyma after Trailblazing Radio workshop

Who says public radio doesn’t pay?

David Green of Third Grade Audio recently wrote to share news of windfall profits this quarter. Thanks to a KVMR license of “Questions for Martin Luther King, Jr.” his third grade producers found themselves in the black with earnings of $1.20. And being a fair and kind boss, David distributed the profits equally among all contributors: one nickel each.

Below, Chicago-area Third Graders from North Shore Country Day School – creators of such PRX classics as “Loose Tooth” and “Stuffed Animals 3” – pose with their profits.

We should add that David is not only kind, but fastidious. He wrote, “So, for accuracy’s sake, each of my students will get 4.3¢, or one Czech Koruna, which is worth that much at current exchange rates. Since I can’t get my hands on any Koruny, my co-teacher, Amy Kenyon, and I have each generously added 10¢ of our own to the pot, thus bringing payment for each third grader up to a nickel.” Isn’t it great when management cuts you a deal?

The Millennials & GPRX on RadioMagOnline

The Millennials, that generation that grew up around the turn of the 21st century, have a whole different way of looking at the media. So how does radio connect with a generation that, as Matt Terrell writes in Reaching Millennials, is “no longer constrained to listen to whatever is on at the moment; we have audio at our fingertips — it is searchable, fast-forwardable, and subject to our whims?”

A former member of the Generation PRX Youth Editorial Board and producer leader at Savannah College of Art and Design’s SCAD Radio, Matt has insight into who’s reaching Millennials and valuable advice on how to do it. The vanguard case studies? NPR’s Next Generation Radio, PRX, GPRX and SCADRadio.org

“If you want to use new media tools and social networks, you have to respect them as the tools for social change and interaction like their Millennial creators view them. It’s a very common theme in new media research that users (especially Millennials) can sense a fakeness and distrust people who don’t use these tools in the right ways. The right way involves using the tools primarily for social uses rather than professional, and keeping a personal tone to created profiles and sites.”

Whether you’re i.m.ing six other people while you’re reading this, or still trying to figure out what i.m. is – Reaching Millennials on Radiomagonline is excellent food for thought.

NPR’s Next Generation PRX

We’re big fans of Doug Mitchell and his work at NPR with Next Generation, and it’s great to see it get some more well-deserved attention by Mark Glaser at PBS’s Media Shift. As Mark mentions PRX has been working with Next Gen, and we’re hoping to find more ways to connect more directly with our youth-radio project Generation PRX.

Not surprisingly, those twentysomethings have also pushed NPR further into the digital realm, creating an eye-catching blog and using Public Radio Exchange (PRX), an online marketplace for radio reports, to get wider distribution for their work.

PRX, an online exchange for radio producers and programmers, has played an important role in giving wider exposure to the young radio journalists. Jake Shapiro, executive editor of PRX, told me there are about 128 NextGen stories up at PRX, and they’ve been licensed more than 60 times by stations that ran the content.

“We made a concerted push to help get NextGen pieces on PRX, partly because too few of them saw the light of day on NPR programs and they are excellent pieces that stations have found lots of opportunities to air,” Shapiro said via email. “We also see great alignment between NextGen’s goals and PRX’s mission to help surface new voices and cultivate new talent…There’s a lot more that we could do together as part of a vital pipeline for new and diverse talent in public radio/media.”

Read the full piece here.

Etsy & GPRX

This month, the amazing craft site Etsy is focusing on podcasting, and they’ve spotlighted Generation PRX all across etsy-land.

Image by techdiy

First, GPRX Project Director Jones Franzel and Youthcast host Kiera Feldman share DIY tips for getting started in radio:

“While [Generation PRX] was started for youth radio producers, new producers of any age can visit the site for DIY tutorials, online audio workshops, and resources. Like Etsy, it’s a place where a community of people who love to make things share tips and advice.”

Next, Radio Rookies producer Jaimita Haskell joins Jones and Kiera for an interview on how new voices are changing the public radio marketplace.

“There’s a quote from Gwen Macsai that sums up my feelings well. She hosts Re: Sound — a terrific show on Chicago Public Radio. On a DIY radio site called Transom, she writes, “Radio is my first love and like a first love, no matter how far you stray and no matter how badly it ended, your heart still skips a beat when it walks through the door.” Isn’t that great?”

And be sure to tune in this Wednesday, March 12, at 1 p.m. (EST) for a live online workshop. Jones, Kiera, and Jaimita will hold a webcam lab to talk about all things indie radio production. No production experience required!