Teen audio stories publish on Life With Fire Podcast

Living in a place where wildfires burn regularly is complicated–and teens across Montana translated their complex experiences with fire into audio stories during Montana Media Lab workshops last fall.

Students in Darby and Florence Montana, and on Blackfeet Nation learned how to develop, research and report a story during intensive journalism workshops over the course of the fall semester. Led by University of Montana instructors, teens reported on everything from wildlife to school policy and Blackfeet cultural burning practices to the thrill of a firefighter’s first grass fire.

The Media Lab empowers teens to find their voices by giving them all the skills they need to tell their own stories. Teens in Indigenous and rural communities don’t often see their experiences reflected in journalism or media, but through our workshops they discover the immense power of their own perspectives. Here’s what one parent said about our workshop:

“Super proud of my girl! These experiences are the ones to give Native youth voices a place to be heard!”

-Workshop Participant’s parent

We’re thrilled that these teens’ voices were distributed to a national audience by Life With Fire Podcast. The podcast explores the critical role that fire plays in our forests, lands and communities. Huge thanks to Life With Fire host and creator Amanda Monthei for working with us to share these stories.

You can listen to the episode wherever you get your podcasts, or at the link below.

Thank you to AMB West for making this important work possible.

Deer Lodge students create audio series with Montana Media Lab

Deer Lodge teens explored the relationship between their town and mining in a podcast series they finished during a workshop with the Montana Media Lab. The project was inspired by the great Montana podcast, “Richest Hill,” which tells the story of the Superfund cleanup in Butte, Montana. Students conducted interviews with everyone from mining professionals to an employee at the local movie theater. Then, they did independent research and wrote scripts that explored the topic from a diverse array of angles. Each student recorded their own narration, and edited the project to include music and natural sounds. The result was a local perspective on the history of mining companies shaping one Montana town.

The Montana Standard covered the project in a story titled, “Powell County High School Students create ‘something of their own’ for senior English project,” and reporter Meagan Thompson put together this video.

Ronan students report on highway construction for MTPR

This winter our Youth Voices program headed to beautiful Ronan, Montana for a high school audio storytelling workshop. Students learned the basics of journalism, practiced using their audio gear, and making a radio news story. And along the way, they realized that their expertise on their hometown contained a story valuable to listeners across the state.

The group chose to cover a road construction project that could disrupt traffic in their town. On first glance, highway design might not seem like the most thrilling story. But local knowledge led these young reporters to uncover the depth of the project’s potential impacts.

They found that the path a road takes changes peoples lives. They heard resident’s worries that the new highway could turn their home into a ghost town. Others told them the new road could increase business profits. Their peers said they feared the new route of the highway could prevent their beloved trips to the local Dairy Queen for lunch.

The story aired statewide on Montana Public Radio, and a print version was published in the Char Koosta News and the Lake County Leader.

*Recording* Storytelling for Podcasts with Lacy Roberts

This four-part, 8 hour recorded workshop focuses on non-fiction narrative shows – the documentary-style, often serialized, story-driven podcasts like Serial, Missing Richard Simmons, and Wind of Change that are known for telling expansive, immersive stories. The best ones leave listeners feeling like they’ve been on a journey, and maybe even with a new perspective on the world. This workshop delved into the choices that go into structuring a narrative show that keeps listeners hitting the play button every episode. Instructor Lacy Roberts guided students through the elements of narrative. Participants looked closely at the narrative structures often seen in serialized storytelling. Lacy deconstructed great narrative shows to uncover just what makes them so good, and derive lessons participants could use in their podcasting endeavors. This class also demystified the process of creating a narrative show, discussed what kinds of stories make good narrative podcasts, and provided students with actionable next steps if they think they have a great show idea.

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced all of us to adapt to a new reality of social distancing. For kids, this reality has been especially hard.

To help middle and high school students across Montana document this unprecedented time in their lives, the Montana Media Lab launched a state-wide, oral history project. We asked high school and middle school students to document their experiences by recording interviews with grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers and friends.

Head over to Montana Public Radio to listen to these heartfelt conversations.

Miles City students report on historic theater renovation

One stop on our summer news literacy and audio storytelling tour was at Custer County High School in Miles City. Students covered the re-opening of a historic movie theater, capturing the feel of the space by recording the sound of popcorn being made and the squeals of children waiting to see a matinee.

Students reported and collected amazing sounds for their audio story all around the city. Then they cut and edited interviews they conducted with the town’s historical experts and community members into a compelling story.

Students chose their sources and scenes carefully so their story would tell a complete story about the theater.
A highlight of the week was a behind-the-scenes tour of the theater from its new owner.

Great Falls students report on local art festival

This summer we taught high school students in Great Falls about news literacy and digital storytelling. The workshop yielded a story on the new murals on downtown buildings. The story aired around the state on Yellowstone Public Radio.

Students learned how to find reliable sources of media

Students found sources who could speak about how the arts festival impacts the community

The workshops also gave students tools for finding reliable sources of news. Teens are exposed to a lot of media, and it can be difficult for them to determine what information is trustworthy, and what is misleading.

Students practiced capturing the signature sounds of different parts of Great Falls

Students looked closely at URLs and usernames, opened many tabs about one topic, and used fact-checking websites to identify false claims online. They said they learned new ways to identify misinformation, and they left the workshops understanding the reasons accurate news is important to them.

Lodge Grass students report on the Ultimate Warrior Competition

Last summer the Media Lab team hosted a workshop in Lodge Grass, where students interviewed people in horse stables and at tribal offices for a story about an annual race rooted in Apsaaloóke culture.Their story aired around the state on Yellowstone Public Radio.

Students interviewed Ian White, who has competed in the competition. “It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever accomplished in my life,” he said.

The Media Lab taught students how to make a radio story

Students interviewed officials at the Crow Tribe Executive Branch Offices

The Montana Media Lab teaches audio storytelling skills so people can tell their stories. This summer our team taught high school students around the state how to make stories for radio or podcasts. UM Journalism School graduate Dante Filpula Ankney led audio storytelling instruction.

Students interviewed officials at the Crow Tribe officials

Students learned how to find a good audio story, and how to operate microphones and audio recorders. They practiced writing scripts, narrating stories, and editing audio. Students left the workshop with all the skills they need to put together great audio stories.

Students shared their story and their audio reporting process with their community at the end of the week.

Harlem students make an audio portrait of their home

The first stop on our summer 2022 high school workshop road trip was in Harlem, Montana. Students took to the streets with microphones and notebooks to report an audio portrait of the quiet town just off the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. Their story aired around the state on Yellowstone Public Radio.

One of the interviews featured in the piece was with the students’ classmate Darrius Longknife “I would just have to say that there is nothing else like Harlem,” Longknife said. “Harlem — it’s its own special place.”

Reporting in Indigenous communities

Students developed a reporting plan they thought would capture the most important facets of Harlem

One focus of our summer high school workshops is teaching students how to report stories in Indigenous communities. Tribes and Indigenous people are at the center of a lot of news in Montana, yet they are underrepresented in media.

Students captured sounds like the notorious Hi-Line wind in the trees for the story

Student instructor JoVonne Wagner, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, taught students and teachers how to find stories, research and connect with Native communities, and accurately report stories that involve Indigenous people.
JoVonne gave students tips on building relationships to include Indigenous voices in their journalism without perpetuating stereotypes or inaccurately reporting on tribal affairs. Students put these skills to work in their reporting on Harlme, where many residents are Indigenous.

This group of brilliant young journalists put together an amazing story

Teens learn audio storytelling and news literacy skills in Montana Media Lab workshop

This summer the Montana Media Lab criss-crossed the state in a silver minivan, visiting rural and Indigenous communities. The team taught students how to tell their own stories with sound and find reliable sources of news. The trip was a great success–workshop participants made stories heard across the state on Yellowstone Public Radio, and both students and their teachers said they would use their news literacy and audio storytelling skills in the future.

Do you think we should teach teens in your community? Get in touch at [email protected] to let us know you’re interested, and you might be the next stop on our journalism education road trip.

Student instructor Hunter Wiggins captured our 2022 road trip in this video.