WUNC’s award-winning Youth Reporting Institute fuels the community-to-radio pipeline

By Honor Knapp

Kamaya Truitt and Eric Hodge at the 2018 Hopscotch festival. (Photo courtesy of Truitt)

When Kamaya Truitt first entered WUNC’s Youth Reporting Institute program in 2012 as a student, she had no idea that the program was going to resonate so much with her. In fact, she would have never guessed that she’d end up leading the program.

Now, as WUNC’S Director of New Talent Community Partnerships and Youth Reporting, Truitt is leading the award-winning program. Its Youth Voices TikTok Project received the Excellence in Innovation award by the Radio Television Digital News Association in May. And the team is in the running for the national Edward R Murrow Awards, to be announced in August, after winning the regional awards earlier this year.

But, perhaps even more powerful is the commitment that the program has to leading young people interested in journalism into the field. The institute’s goal is to pass the mic and change the lens of who is an expert.

“Youth reporting is the beginning of a pipeline for community-to-radio,” Truitt said. “We’re trying to amplify the voices that we don’t get to hear often, which are usually young Black and brown folks.”

Youth reporters shadow an Embodied taping with Editor Amanda Mangus. (Photo courtesy of Truitt)

WUNC’S Summer Youth Reporting Institute was started in 2012 by David Brower, WUNC’s program director at the time. He received a grant from the Goodnight Educational Foundation to bring in a handful of students from the Chapel Hill and Durham area to produce stories about their community.

“It was supposed to just be a small summer project, but as David continued, he realized the impact that it had,” Truitt said.

Truitt has worked at WUNC for more than 10 years, serving as a mentor, program facilitator and director of the Youth Voices program.

Truitt frequently visits other schools and organizations to help teach them how to tell stories through the radio and events. Her goal is to spark dialogue and amplify those voices in multiple ways.

In 2018, Truitt brought Alison Swain on board, and together they expanded the program, specifically by prioritizing BIPOC youth.

By 2022, Truitt and Swain decided to create the Advanced Youth Reporting Institute.

“We are focused on valuing the community perspectives and untold stories that we don’t normally hear,” Truitt said.

Youth Reporter Nassibah Beddredine Interviews Angaza Laughinghouse, President UE150 and leader of Black Workers for Justice, about his history of community organizing. (Photo courtesy of Truitt)

The original curriculum teaches students radio basics and walks them through the process of conducting interviews and writing scripts. They learn how to work with audio and how to develop a story from pitch to production throughout the two months that they’re there.

The Advanced Youth Reporting Institute, attended by alumni of the original program, builds on these foundational skills. They do things ranging from shadowing folks in the newsroom and working in the marketing and business departments learning how to pitch.

Collaboration is at the heart of the program and is what allowed for the creation of the TikTok project.

@wuncyouthvoices #CapCut ♬ original sound – WUNCYouthvoices

The project started as part of the Digital Transformation Project developed by the Poynter Institute and organized through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help stations transition to high-impact digital content production. The goal was to reach out to a community that they don’t engage with often.

The digital transformation project spun off into the TikTok project, which re-centered marginalized voices to create digital content for new audiences. The account features all different types of content ranging from “rap recaps” to news highlights.

@wuncyouthvoices For more information visit WUNC.org. For full article links, check below. If we missed something, let us know! Police: https://www.wunc.org/news/2022-12-09/report-county-jails-north-carolina-safety-issues Politics: https://www.wunc.org/2022-12-06/gov-cooper-says-moore-county-attack-signals-a-new-threat-level Environment: https://www.wunc.org/news/2022-12-06/moore-county-resources-where-find-shelter-food-wifi-power-outage https://www.wunc.org/2022-12-08/shots-fired-near-duke-energy-hydroelectric-dam-in-south-carolina #fyp#durhamnc#chapelhillnc#raleighnc#amplifyyouthvoices#wuncradio#parati#news#health#opioids#sue#firefighters#education#teachers#college#elections#finance#Reimburse#Vote#youth#politics#greenscreenvideo ♬ original sound – WUNCYouthvoices

“The initial idea was to reiterate the news in a way that youth will be able to absorb and focus on things that the news may not be focusing on that are important to the youth, which is why we need it,” Truitt said.

@wuncyouthvoices Summer in the Triangle means it’s time for In Tha Fest! Come with some of this year’s youth reporters as local artists, vendors, and festival goers enjoy the good vibes and performances! #fyp #parati #pov #youthvoices #radio #triangle #raleigh #durham #chapelhill #InThaFest #SummerInThaCarolinas #919 #hiphop #rappers #singers #performance ♬ original sound – WUNCYouthvoices

Since the first few cohorts, there have been many success stories, with students now working for outlets such as NPR and MSNBC.

Nassibah Bedreddine has wanted to be a journalist since she was 12 years old. She said the Youth Reporting Institute has set her up for success by giving her a starting point. Bedreddine will be a first-year at UNC in August.

Chris Williams interviews Hot Boy Shaq. (Photo courtesy of Truitt)

“I genuinely don’t think I would have gotten into UNC if not for my work with the WUNC Radio Youth Institute, which speaks to just how important the institute has been to my professional and personal development,” Bedreddine said.

The Youth Reporting Institute allows students to learn and grow while offering them financial support.

“It is so difficult to find somewhere to start with journalism, especially if you don’t have experience; not only do you get to do what you want to do, but you get paid for it,” rising UNC junior Chris Williams said.

Williams’ favorite part of the program is the mentorship.

“Kamaya and Allison are probably the realest mentors I’ve ever had,” he said. “I connect with them in ways I don’t feel like I can connect with my professors.”