Students Tell Impactful Stories Through WUOT
Caption: Senior Caleb Colvin edits audio at WUOT-FM for his story on plans to expand Knoxville’s tree canopy.
Senior Caleb Colvin’s first assignment with WUOT-FM was covering Tennessee State Rep. Gloria Johnson’s U.S. Senate bid announcement.
The School of Journalism and Media major was paired with Jacqui Sieber, WUOT reporter and host of All Things Considered, for the story. Colvin interviewed members of the public gathered at Johnson’s announcement and shared their comments with Sieber for the story.
An aspiring sports journalist, Colvin felt he took away a lot from his experience at East Tennessee’s NPR station. He applied for the 2023 WUOT fall practicum to tell stories he typically wouldn’t, adding he believes it would help him become a better reporter.
Through WUOT he got to work on a number of stories but his favorite project was on the City of Knoxville’s Growing Urban Tree Canopy project. Colvin got the opportunity to take the lead on researching, interviewing, writing and editing audio for the story.
Colvin said he was able to work on fundamental skills, such as writing, conducting interviews and doing research, all while covering a wide range of topics while working at the station. He also picked up some new skills as this was the first time he has worked in radio.
“It was cool being in the studio and learning how to record and edit audio for stories,” Colvin said. “They also said I have a voice for radio, so that was nice to hear.”
Growing opportunities, a community journalism focus
WUOT transitioned into the College of Communication and Information this past July.
Professor of Practice Melanie Faizer said this move allows the station and college to leverage each other’s expertise to provide listeners with more local content and provide students more experiential learning opportunities.
Aside from practicums, Faizer said students are introduced to the station through the School of Journalism and Media graduate program, which emphasizes the importance of community journalism and requires all graduate students to complete local reporting assignments for media outlets as part of its curriculum.
Master’s student Alexis Bishop reported on different topics while working at WUOT the past fall. As a former teacher, she really enjoyed covering education funding the most.
“Those articles were definitely some pieces that I was proud of because it’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart as someone who’s a former educator,” Bishop said.
Writing has always been a passion for Bishop, adding this led her to pursue a second master’s degree in communication even as she works full-time as a learning and organizational development consultant at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Bishop said prior to working at the station her writing experience was primarily for online media, like blogs and websites. She never thought about working in radio until the opportunity presented itself in her JREM 515 Journalism Project 1 course.
“It’s something that I never really thought I would get the chance to do,” Bishop said. “I think that it was a really neat opportunity to be able to work in that atmosphere and see what it’s like behind the scenes, get in the studio to use the technology and have the opportunity to interview people for different stories.”
Master’s student MaryBeth Mahne also worked at WUOT this past fall. She said at the start of the semester she was intimidated by the idea of covering news because she had no prior experience. However, by the end of the semester she felt much more confident in her abilities thanks to the experience.
At the station, Mahne said they worked on the basics of news writing and scripting writing for radio, along with interviewing skills. Both Bishop and Mahne had their work published and aired.
“I would recommend other students check out WUOT for their news, but also for internship and experience opportunities. I think our generation gets so much of our news from social media and does not have a true understanding of traditional news,” Mahne said. “Working with WUOT opened my eyes to a lot going on in Tennessee that I was unaware of previously and I gained so much confidence and experience through this opportunity.”
Faizer said students not only get hands-on experience working at WUOT but insights into the industry by working alongside seasoned reporters. She added when students are able to see what goes into telling impactful stories firsthand it helps convey the importance of journalism much more than just hearing about it in a classroom.
As the station settles into its new home within the college, Faizer said opportunities for students will increase, but that their reporting will also help the community.
Faizer said WUOT is in a unique position to become a leader in local and community news in this area which would teach students the importance of being civically engaged and why local news matters to communities and democracy.
“They have the opportunity to do stories here that nobody else is doing and that has the potential to change the local news landscape,” Faizer said.