By Stephanie Yuvienco
About a year ago, I took an impromptu trip to Boston to surprise my ex-girlfriend for her birthday. We were in a relationship for about a year and a half. We channeled most of the love through Skype calls, motivating text messages and rare visits to each other’s schools throughout the school year. She had just recently switched her major and I saw her struggling to keep at it. My solution? Take a day trip and remind her that when all of the suffering is over, she would have someone to come home to.
My friend, Tristan, and I dragged our butts out of bed at 5am to make an unstimulating, 4-and-a-half hour drive to Beantown. What kept us awake? Tristan chronicling our journey through audio recordings on his iPhone.
During that time, Tristan was taking Terry Sheridan’s audio journalism class, JRN 393. He was missing an assignment, and figured, “Why don’t I do a story about your long distance relationship?” He said he could maybe tie it to finals, and even though I figured it was a long shot, I said, “Why not?”
It was so poignantly produced that it hurts to listen to a love long lost even months after the relationship ended. But that made me think: sometimes just listening to a person’s inflection and words can capture an emotion just as powerfully as a photograph.
What Tristan created inspired this new phase in my life where I would listen to podcasts for hours on end. The personalities I listened to through my mediocre headphones became my friends. I learned to trust them and I wanted to become them. In order to do that, I needed to take JRN 393, create thought-provoking content and land myself an internship with WSHU Public Radio. That’s exactly what I did the next semester.
Luckily for me, I got to stay an extra semester on top of my four years at Stony Brook. It helped me balance my course loads, and of course, gave me the time to intern at WSHU.
My first few times at WSHU weren’t as easy as I thought they were going to be. First off, my schedule only allowed me to intern once a week. That means less time going out to do my own reporting, but more time learning the ropes about radio writing and production. Professor Sheridan’s new promotion made him an even busier man. I didn’t really start until my third week of school. And when I finally got to do a voicer, I had to record them over and over and over again since Sheridan would be in Connecticut instead of Long Island to coach me through it.
But I think that’s what made me a stronger audio intern. I didn’t have Sheridan there to coddle me like a baby while I swallowed myself back into my tiny turtle shell. He would call me right away, tell me exactly what I needed to work on when I went back into the booth. After each phone call, I would take mental notes and trudge my way back, channeling my inner NPR voice and delivery. It became a fun game, although rather an anxiety inducing game because I didn’t have anyone there to correct me on the spot.
Eventually, I got into the ebb and flow of tracking. Three takes, became two takes, and closer to the end of the internship, I would only need go into the booth once to deliver a story.
Aside from the tracking, one of my biggest hurdles was writing, editing and voicing very close to a 4pm deadline. I went to WSHU on Tuesdays from 12-5pm. Right after my class in the newsroom, I would sprint my way to the office and get started on my work as soon as possible. I learned how to consume and understand news at a quick pace.
The hardest part was always telling the news in my own voice. When you read a story from Newsday to produce a reader or a voicer, it’s an important skill to be able to tell that story back as if you were talking to your friends. I learned how to make my writing relatable, punchy and urgent.
Looking back, I wish I had more time there. Not just time to do my own reporting, but to build better relationships with my editors so I could learn more. I haven’t learned it all, and it’ll be years from now until I do. To me, that’s the most exciting and hopeful realization. It’s encouraging to know that there will be more opportunities for me to forge my path in audio journalism. Now, I have the support from my family at WSHU.