Reflection: It’s okay to be caught off guard

NextGenRadio went by in a heartbeat to be honest.

The anticipation in the weeks before really had me nervous from day one. After a good brainstorming session with my mentor Eli Chen, I thought I had a good person to profile. The subject and themes were compelling and interesting enough to me personally, so things were going to fall in place pretty smoothly and that would be that.

I was dead wrong.

Pitching was definitely a moment I was not completely prepared for. It slowly dawned on me how the detailed questions and broad appeal of the story for what I wanted to report on weren’t all there. I didn’t have answers. “Why should I care?” was something almost offensive to me, because I had my own personal reasons for picking the subject I did. Translating that to a complete stranger was certainly a challenge. Eli and I went through three or four ideas before my head started to hurt. I went through my contact list, almost desperate for a story to fall on my lap.

Then I remembered art. There had to be something going on in the world of art in Oklahoma. The timing and events with a local elementary school fighting to fund their arts program was interesting, and also compelling. The way to connect the dots for local and state issues were there as well. So we went for it.

I think the first two days were the most stressful for me. Figuring out all the pieces and planning the narrative of the piece was tough, since I had to assume the kinds of things my subjects were going to tell me. Wording the questions and following a story guide I made for the project was difficult. After day one, all that was left was reporting.

In the field, I knew who we were going to meet, and how those talks were going to pan out, which went much better than I anticipated. What we were hoping for, was to find a family that went to Eugene Field Elementary who was willing to talk to us about the arts program cut. We went to our first interviews with the hope that either of them could give us a name or point us in the right direction. With luck on our side that afternoon, a member of the school’s community action board gave her friend a call to set us up with an interview.

After a bit of driving, we arrive at the home of the Mondragon family. She was much more comfortable once she realized I could speak Spanish, her native language. She welcomed us into her home and gave us all the time we needed to get the audio from her and both of her children, who went to the school.

It was the element we needed to make the story as good as we wanted it to be. The following days were spent sifting and editing all the footage from the previous day, which meant concentration and busy work. Totally not as stressful as those first few days.

Overall, the project led me to a story I can say I’m extremely proud of. There are an incredible amount of concepts and small things I learned about reporting through this medium. I’m thankful for the whole NextGen team and the opportunity to give me a glimpse of what it’s like to report for public radio.

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