Environmental journalism student reflects on public radio internship

By Taylor Haelterman

Taylor Haelterman

This summer I had the opportunity to work at WKAR Radio, a National Public Radio affiliate, as an environmental reporting intern.  In this position, I was able to create spots, super-spots and features that aired on “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” with written accompaniments published online.

Two of the pieces I’m most proud of are “Parks And Recreation Interest Spikes As Michigan Reopens” and “MSU Study Finds No-Till Farming Yields Long-Term Economic Benefits.”

The parks and recreation story holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first piece I ever produced for a radio station outside of Michigan State University’s student station. And the story on no-till farming makes this list because it was the story that made me realize how far my reporting skills had developed in only a couple of months.

During my time at WKAR, I honed many audio reporting skills such as pronunciation in my voice over, editing for a quick turn -around, how to interview more precisely and how to produce a full piece efficiently.

But one of the most important skills I developed was how to work in a professional news setting. Previously I had worked only in classrooms and student organizations, so it was beneficial to be a part of daily team meetings, writers’ circles and general conversations on coverage throughout the day. Despite working virtually due to the pandemic, it helped me get used to how a workday at a station should flow and how to better communicate with my teammates.

The most difficult thing to learn was script writing. Going into the summer, I thought I had quite a good handle on radio experience from my time at the student station, and I did well when it came to audio production and editing my pieces. The thing I didn’t know how to do was write a radio script. I struggled to keep an active and engaging voice while conveying all the necessary information within a short timeframe. I fell into the habit of writing my scripts with in the same basic outline. Eventually, with the help of my supervisor and a few other reporters, I was able to break that mold and learn enough of the basics to get creative. At first, I wasn’t sure it was possible, but now I’m as comfortable writing scripts as I am writing for print.

The biggest lesson I took out of this internship was to not be afraid to reach out and make connections, even if there are no positions open. I first job shadowed at WKAR almost two years ago, and I reached out to the station with my resumé months before any internships were posted for the summer to show I was interested. I think the most important thing when it comes to landing an internship is to get your name out there and get networking. You never know what opportunities it could lead to.

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