Key Words: podcast, podcasting, radio interviews, scholastic press freedom, private schools
My podcasting learning goal for the week was to complete and edit an interview, and this dovetailed nicely with the news that my school had won the First Amendment Press Freedom Award for the third year in a row.
I chose to interview Gretchen Warner, Archer's upper school director and one of my supervisors, because I think it is crucial for private school advisers and administrators to hear why a school leader would choose to relinquish control of student media. Warner spoke thoughtfully in this interview about the factors she feels are most important for a successful journalism program and why she supports the program.
I think it's important to add a disclaimer however: we completed this interview the day before a very contentious letter to the editor was published in the students' online newspaper that contained accusations against the administration that were grounded in perception rather than fact. To their credit, the administration stands behind their commitment to student-controlled media and did not censor this letter, but it has caused a lot of tension. It has also prompted significant reflection on the part of the board about their letters policy and whether they need to revisit their process. The editorial board will be meeting with the administrative team to discuss the situation this coming week — not to face any kind of disciplinary action, but to engage in thoughtful dialogue about their process and the impact the letter had.
Had this been a normal journalistic situation, I would not have published this interview without allowing Warner to comment on how this situation had impacted her feelings about the questions I asked. Since that wasn't an option this time, I plan to complete a follow-up interview with her in the future.
On a technical level, I didn't have a good microphone available for the interview, so I relied on a Tascam recorder. The amount of work I had to do playing with EQ and compression after the fact was a good affirmation that I need to purchase a decent mic for my program. We also conducted the interview in Warner's office, which was not an ideal location. With no sound baffling, the reflective surfaces in the office made the sound very tinny initially. Even after EQ-ing the sound (with some help from my sound designer friend), the interview sound wasn't as warm as I would have liked. We do have a small recording space in our school, so I'm going to encourage my students to use it for interviews in the future.
The actual editing process went well. I was able to remove some hesitations and "ums" and one request to repeat a question, and I learned how to use the envelope tool to control the in and out music overlap with the interview.
After a lot of conversations with my husband, an audio professional, I have decided not to use Audacity with my students. Although it is free, he worries that any of them who become interested in sound are learning bad habits and incorrect terminology that they would have to unlearn. We are an all-Mac school, so they all have GarageBand on their laptops. GarageBand is much more aligned with professional audio editing software like ProTools, so he recommended using that instead. If a teacher does have to use Audacity because it is free, he suggests being transparent about the fact that students will need to re-learn audio editing tools and terms if they choose to use it moving forward.
I am happy with my final interview podcast, which I timed out to 5:30. I am annoyed with myself for not realizing that the assignment called for a 10-minute final interview, but I still think that this is an important conversation to have had. Warner was very tight on time, and I don't think I would have been able to do an extended interview with her anyway. Perhaps I will be able to do so again in the future.
Most of the time, the school setting is surrounded by the principles of authoritarianism whereas the students are limited to give their own opinions, let alone provide their voice or stand in a particular issue. Thanks, however, to campus journalism and these students now found a platform to voice out their views in a particular situation. Podcasting, on this behalf, is now helping campus journalists to express their viewpoints. Scholastic press freedom is one of the recently trending issues that are being overlooked as the student journalists can throw a shade of the administrative problems in their respective schools. As such, it should be put in our minds that while they attempt to exist to give their voice, let us try to consider them and see them as a valuable unit in our schools.
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“And though she be but little, she is fierce!” -A Midsummer Night’s Dream