Coming into the Next Generation Radio project, I didn’t know what to expect. Having never worked with audio equipment or software before, I was pretty apprehensive about the uphill climb I faced. (It’ll be like video production, but in half the time. Right?)

After a few semesters of reporting on topics assigned by professors, I certainly appreciated the open reporting possibilities the project allowed. I knew I wanted to stay in the realm of education reporting, but even that proved to be challenging due to the early January time-frame. So I was grateful to have KJZZ’s Carrie Jung as my mentor. Having that “hometown advantage” helped me find a local education program with students in the Phoenix area. I ended up focusing on Catholic Charities’ vocational training program for refugees and disadvantaged youths.

I faced the usual journalist difficulties—sources not getting back to me, time crunches and technical hiccups. And of course, I gained experience with the challenges of producing a non-narrative audio piece. You can’t use a pair of brackets to fix awkward phrasing, and knowing what ambient sound to capture isn’t exactly an intuitive process. (There were even times I wished I was using Adobe Premiere rather than Audition.)

But despite the challenges of the week, I learned a lot and I had a lot of fun. It’s such a unique experience to have a group of audio professionals donate a week of their time to help five journalism students.

In this day of “backpack journalism,” it’s great to be able to draw on the skills I learned in this week-long project. Because while I have my dreams and aspirations, I know I could end up anywhere from radio production in Phoenix to copy editing in Chicago.