Working hard to find my voice

By Michelle Toussant

My first experience with radio was in 2012, my freshman year of college, at 90.3 FM WHPC. At the time I had absolutely no journalistic experience but began compiling news stories for the daily evening news broadcast. After about two weeks I was was offered the opportunity to join the station’s news director for the on-air broadcast. After about a month, I would go on to broadcast the evening news on my own for the next two years.

Once I learned about the internship opportunity at WSHU, through the School of Journalism, I wanted to revisit the medium I had learned to appreciate. I assumed, due to my previous experience, that I would start as a seasoned broadcaster. However, I soon realized I had much to learn.

In print— there are pictures and writing, in video — there are visuals, in audio reporting — there is only your voice. Pitch, pronunciation, and speed determines whether a listener will stay engaged or not. If the audience cannot understand the report or even if they find the reporter’s voice unpleasant they will just change the station. This is why it is imperative to exercise your voicing.

Practicing and implementing different techniques for speaking is not something I thought of prior to the internship. However, over the course of the semester, I could hear the changes in my voice. My goal was to sound assertive, precise and conversational. Listening to WSHU and WNYC regularly and applying suggestions given by my managing editor, Terry Sheridan, assisted me along this path.

I had the opportunity to work on a range of stories for WSHU, from Long Island water quality projects to MS-13 gang coverage. Some were more intriguing than others but I had to do my best to report on every story using the same energy. I also gained substantial experience interviewing government officials. There were a few times when those I interviewed tried to veer the discussion into a different direction. I learned to be steadfast and unintimidated in my persistence, which is an essential skill to have.

Regarding the technical aspects of the internship, Adobe Audition is a must. It is fairly simple to use and there will always be someone to help.

Overall, the internship was a very informative and pleasant experience. I would most definitely recommend WSHU, or any opportunity in radio to other students. A piece of advice would be to always take advice your editors regarding a script because 10 times out of 10 they are right. Form a good relationship with the editor as well because if you realize that radio is the medium you would like to pursue, they will help you break into the field.