As in summers past, WUNC staff members are mentoring six teenage reporters. The young people come from three different counties, and get to see the inner workings of a public radio member station for several weeks while developing their own stories. Seasoned reporters are teaching them the tricks of the trade.
At the end of their first week on the job, we asked the students to submit a 'selfie' and tell us one thing that surprised them about the station.
"I am surprised that a radio station is so quiet and big," Lili Morales said.
Before her first day on the job, Lili imagined that most of the work in a radio station took place behind the microphones in the studio. But she quickly found out that a lot of the work is done at a desk.
Reporters spend a lot of time on the computer or under headsets editing tape in addition to going out into the community with a recorder.
"Now that I am working in this environment I see why it’s quiet. People have to think and work on their own to have great stories to have on air," Lili said.
Jamayah Parrish was also surprised about the environment.
"I expected to see people running around like chickens w/o their heads -- a loud, bustling office, and papers flying everywhere," she said via e-mail.
Jamayah is a poet, and on the weekends she can usually be found meeting with her poetry group or trying to narrow down her college search list. Like many of the teen reporters, she was encouraged to apply for the summer reporting position by her teacher, who says Jamayah is an excellent creative writer.
Thar Thwai, 18, graduated from Carrboro High School and now attends Catawba College.
Thar is a softspoken young man, a runner and a soccer player. So it's not surprising that he took special note of the teams inside the station.
Thar and the other teen reporters are working out of the offices at on the American Tobacco campus. That is where The State of Things airs live each weekday at noon. The show's producers must work as a team to get all of the details done for every episode of the show. The office is also home to the station's editors and many of the reporters. They collaborate closely on stories.
So far, Thar says, he's been having fun working and learning closely with a group of mentors and other teen reporters.
"I feel like I am coming along," said Morgan Manson on the Friday of her first week on the job. Morgan attends Hillside New Tech in Durham.
Just landing the internship itself was a huge plus for her. And just in the first week, she's already learned to record interviews and cut tape. What's she most looking forward to?
"Creating stories that people are interested in and want to listen to," she says.
Like Morgan, Chelsea Korynta is also keenly interested in the interpersonal aspect of the job.
"I'm extremely excited to talk with people and collect interviews!" she said via e-mail. "I love to talk and listen to other's stories - and to do that as a job seems too good to be true sometimes."
Chelsea was particularly surprised by how a story gets the green-light, a process we call "pitching." It works this way: a reporter has an idea for a story. S/he has to "pitch" the idea to an editor.
"I was surprised when our mentors told us 80% of radio pitches are turned down," Chelsea says. "During our pitch meeting, learning how to pitch a story was extremely interesting. We learned that a radio story needs characters, action, and a plot-just like a TV show or a book. I had never thought of a radio story that way."
Perhaps our favorite response came from Emmanuel Johnson. Emmanuel attends Riverside High School in Durham. He spends some time listening to the radio, of course, but he's usually found on the golf course, or at church.
Emmanuel says he's surprised about something simple: "The people don't look at all like what they sound like on the radio."