Dynamic duo: EMU's student radio reporters dig up stories

WEMU interns gain experience as they vigorously cover local and campus news

by Linda Hass, Published March 31, 2014

You may not recognize the names of Laura Heffner or Taylor Pinson, but if you listen to 89.1 WEMU, the public broadcasting service of Eastern Michigan University, chances are you’ve heard their work.

Both are student interns at the National Public Radio affiliate that broadcasts at 89.1 FM and streams live 24 hours a day; and both conduct, record and edit phone interviews, write stories and assemble information for on-air and online presentations. Station staff says the dynamic duo has a nose for news and an uncanny knack for uncovering story angles that other media miss.

“Laura and Taylor have a curious, personable and persistent nature that’s incredibly important in this business,” says Program Director Patrick Campion. “They have an ability to dig into the ‘story within a story’ and find the angles that other media miss.”

As paid interns working 15-20 hours per week at the broadcasting service, Heffner and Pinson talk with lawmakers, businesses, students and many more, says Campion, adding that internships provide the kind of hands-on experience that  helps build careers.

“My bachelor’s degree in communications from another school didn’t help me find a job, so I came to Eastern where I knew I could get hands-on experience,” says Heffner, a journalism major on track to receive her second bachelor’s degree in December 2014.  

“The difference was like night and day. At Eastern, professors encouraged me to apply for the radio internship, which has given me experience interviewing people and writing stories that are actually aired,” she says, adding that she generates about 15 stories per week. She also has written for the student newspaper, The Eastern Echo.

The Wayne native hopes to pursue a master’s degree, possibly in children’s literature—her current minor—and even publish a book one day.

In addition to practical experience, the WEMU staff goes out of its way to make all interns feel like they are part of the station family, say the seniors. “I expected on-air personalities to be unapproachable in real life, but that has not been the case at all,” says Pinson, a journalism and electronic film and media major. “It’s a very friendly, welcoming environment.”

Pinson, who also wrote for The Eastern Echo, became interested in the radio internship when he discovered the station was hiring, and because it presented an opportunity to diversify his skills, he says. 

“Journalism is a rapidly changing field—it’s important to get as much experience from as many sources as possible. You never know what skills will be needed to get you that dream job,” adds the Dundee native, who is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in the fall of 2014.

His goals also involve graduate studies and possibly even teaching journalism at a university some day. In the meantime, he’s eager to acquire career-building experience.

“Eastern has done a great job of presenting students with opportunities for hands-on experience in various fields,” says Pinson.  “If I had any advice for prospective communication students, it would be to dive in to different work opportunities because you never know where it will lead.”

Geoff Larcom



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