Heading into my first non-narrative project, I knew that I would have nowhere to hide story gaps with my own words. Blueprinting the project, thinking about who I needed my audience to be and how Karen Caudillo’s story would benefit them, let me narrow down a focus that came into play when I was storyboarding the audio. The “blueprinting” of the project also gave me a sense of how I wanted the story to feel thematically and what I needed to draw out of Caudillo during the interview.
Caudillo is an emotive and vulnerable speaker and storyteller, so the interview was able to easily flow into the depths of who she is. Audio-wise, there were issues with the mic sound that couldn’t be resolved in the field. But having our audio engineer, Patrice, work with me helped to minimize the sound’s grainy quality.
The power of the non-narrative style challenged me as journalist because I had to dial down my reporter ego and make sure Caudillo could tell her full story on her own, which is why it was so painful to leave things on the cutting room floor. This hurt the most, more than other pieces I’ve reported, because the tape spanned all of Caudillo’s personality, and a bit of her humor. For example, her quote, “That’s when I really realized that Dora [the Explorer] became my first feminist icon,” was left out. Having those conversations with my mentor, Rachel Iacovone, and her fresh ears, let us pick in a collaborative way what the most compelling pieces were. For example, when Caudillo talked about the sounds her orthopedic wooden shoes made or her recognition of pine trees.
This project demonstrated the value of having a diverse newsroom where people feel comfortable enough to work as a group and give honest feedback to written pieces and audio. It’s something I’ll look for heading into any job. I was sensitive to this throughout the week because we started with a presentation that reminded mentees of the importance of valuing yourself and your creativity over a job position. The presentation sparked conversation with my mentor about the weight of sometimes being the only person in a newsroom advocating for diversity and how we can navigate that space in a productive way.
As I head out to an internship at National Public Radio, knowing that I have an army of people I can reach out to for guidance, places a lot of nerves at ease while I pack everything into the backseat of my car.