Speaking Scripts

A couple months ago, Youth Radio learned that our newsroom’s series, Reflections on Return from the Iraq War, will be featured alongside 12 other youth media works on a new website, Projects of Change, highlighting the signature pedagogies and best practices behind exemplary youth media products. We’re excited to be included!

Film-maker and education consultant Mindy Faber is working on the project, and she called me up to learn more Youth Radio’s work, to inform our description on the site. We discussed one of the methodologies Youth Radio producers used extensively in the Reflections on Return series—something you might call “speaking scripts.”

Using this technique, reporters from our newsroom interviewed troops coming home from Iraq, and then cut those conversations into two-to-four minute single-voice, first-person essays. This process creates an especially challenging and collaborative approach to interviewing. We prefaced each conversation by letting the young vet know that throughout the interview, we’d be “in-flight editing,” and that we’d need their help. In other words, the reporter needed to be thinking the whole time about how the story would sound with all the questions eliminated, and what bits of tape would work as the story’s beginning, middle, end, and transitions in between. It was not at all uncommon, in this process, for the reporter to pause the conversation and say something like, “I love what you just said, but can you help me make a transition to that other point you made earlier?” Questions like these make the composition process more transparent, while young people hone an important skill—the capacity to edit in production.

Check out these stories for examples of Reflections on Return’s speaking scripts. All aired nationally, most on NPR, which serves 26 million listeners annually:

Living with PTSD (check out our Teach Youth Radio curriculum resource linked to this story as well)

Family Ties (the interviewer here was a fellow young vet, Kevin Walters)

Depression after Combat

Love and War

Wounded Soldier (this story was produced in collaboration with Blunt Youth Radio Project in Portland, Maine)

4 Responses to Speaking Scripts

  1. Liss,

    I am so inspired by the work you do with social justice education and learning pedagogy. Whenever I look at your work on media production, I think, how could I apply what she writes about to dance production; learning dance; and creating community-based (collaborative) dance theater pieces?

  2. Sophia,
    And I am inspired by your work! Do you have any thoughts you might share here about how these techniques relate to dance/theater? I’ve seen some great youth-produced work on the spoken word poetry scene that’s starting to integrate performance elements–have you checked that out? Speaking of converged literacy…

  3. A few thoughts on the connection between Youth Radio’s newsroom methodology and dance-creation methodology as practiced by Deep Waters Dance Theater (DWDT), the company I rehearse and perform with right now. Youth Radio is known for our focus on collaboration.

    We do no assume adults have the authority on writing or story-making.
    Here, youth are (hopefully) not told what to think and how to write by editors/adults when creating a new story. Instead, they brainstorm the seed of an idea, and then work collaboratively with an (older) editor during the development process. I was sitting in rehearsal last night, when it struck me how DWDT uses a similar type of collaborative methodology in creating dance work.

    Traditionally, choreographers are the highest figure on the totem pole in the dance world…well, at least higher than the dancer. The choreographer creates a dance in her/his body and mind, and then sets this dance on a group of dancers, with no opportunity for feedback or collaboration in the creation process. In this kind of strict process, the unique spirit and movement of a dancer can become repressed. We are told when and how to move, and we must execute the movement in the exact same way as the choreographer.

    But the dance company I work with does not follow this old model. We break traditional boundaries of hierarchical dance creation, just as Youth Radio breaks traditional boundaries of hierarchical editorial process and news creation.

    Last night in rehearsal, for example, the artistic director of the company created a new portion of her/our latest work, Precious Dirt (a tribute to the environment). Instead of just giving us movement, and telling us to repeat after her, the head of the company drew on phrase work we had all created. In our rehearsal, she reminded me of someone molding somewhat formless clay or play-dough into a more recognizable cohesive shape.

    One by one, every company member taught her individually-choreographed movement to the group. Our director then visualized how she wanted all this raw material to become a choreographed dance piece, just as a Youth Radio editor might visualize how a first draft piece of writing could turn into a commentary. By the end of the night, we ended up with some real working material for the piece…

  4. Sophia, that’s such an interesting characterization of a process that usually hides behind the final product of a staged performance. The question I’m often asked when I talk about youth-adult collaboration or “collegial pedagogy” in media production is what happens when conflicts arise? With your example, how does a choreographer handle it if she just doesn’t like one of the movements a dancer proposes? Are fellow dancers “authorized” to comment on one another’s contributions or critique the choreographer’s ideas? These moments of critique among co-producers are, I think, crucial to participatory learning environments and contain clues about how authority is negotiated, shared, and sometimes claimed or withheld. Also, I can get very excited about contexts where it seems that everyone stands on equal footing, but then again, it seems worthwhile to recognize moments when someone exercises a right to final say–whether that person is a novice or “expert,” young person or adult (and what counts as expertise is, of course, always up for grabs).

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