Student Reporters Put Together Stories Of Humor And Tragedy

Apr 25, 2013

Staffers from Carolina Connection, a student-run radio program, present the work on the State of Things. From left: Instructor Adam Hochberg, Wesley Graham, Mike Rodriguez, Kirsten Chang, James Kaminsky, and Mark Haywood.
Credit Shawn Wen

A group of student journalists is getting a course in professional radio reporting at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The class has opened a world of experience to them. One of the students, Mark Haywood, had the opportunity to report on an incident of human trafficking right in his hometown of Randolph County, North Carolina. 

Haywood profiled Noemi Pascual, a woman of Mayan Indian descent.  Pascual was raised by her aunt and grandmother in Guatemala before she was sold to a relative in North Carolina.  There, she worked without pay and endured physical and sexual abuse.  Eventually, she ran to a neighbor's house and the neighbor called 911.  Pascual has since been placed in foster care.

"I had never done a story like that before," Haywood said in an interview with The State of Things.  "I asked her, 'How many people have you shared to?' And she said, 'Nobody.  You're the first.'  And that kind of shell shocked me.  Once I got over that, I said, 'Well, you know, I just want you to be comfortable with this--whatever it is that we need to do.  If there are things that you don't want to answer or places you don't want to go, just tell me.'" 

Haywood ended up sitting with Pascual for three hours as she recounted her experiences.  The completed interview can be heard on the State of Things and on Carolina Connection on WCHL.  

The story was put together with the help of Adam Hochberg, a name which may be familiar to many NPR listeners. Hochberg's stories have run on  All Things Considered and Morning Edition. 

At UNC-Chapel Hill, Hochberg leads an undergraduate class that puts together a radio show called Carolina Connection. It’s a news magazine that is entirely produced, anchored and run by students.

Kirsten Chang is a producer for Carolina Connection.  She recently visited the State legislature and spoke with state Senator David Curtis, a Republican from Lincoln County, about a bill he sponsored to abolish gender neutral housing.  Chang was nervous before the interview.  She caught Senator Curtis as he was standing outside his office. 

"I could see in his mind, he kind of looked at me and he was thinking," Chang said.  "I could see the gears turning.  And he's like, 'Okay, I have a few minutes.'" 

Her story on gender neutral housing can be listened to in its entirety on Carolina Connection's website

Mike Rodriguez, another student in the course, recently aired a story about students without cell phones.  In 2010, a Pew study found that 10 percent of adults age 18 to 29 don't own cell phones. 

"We were in our pitch meeting, and you look around.  Everyone has their phone on their desk," Rodriguez said.  "And somebody in our class actually knew somebody without a cell phone.  And we were like, 'This is very, very rare among the student population.' So I decided to take on the story." 

James Kaminsky is also a student reporter for Carolina Connection.  He reported on a class at UNC-Chapel Hill that allows students to be in a rock band

"This piece really started ten years ago, when I first saw the movie School of Rock," Kaminsky said.  "I'm a musician.  So when I saw that movie, I fell in love with the idea of playing music academically.  Now fast forward, here I am  at school, and I find out through a friend--now he's a musician, too--but he's actually getting three credit  hours for playing with his friends."