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PodLab: A donor-supported outreach program to engage the next generation of journalists

Harry Cunningham — Pexels

Each semester, a reporter at WHQR teaches a class of students about the tenets of journalism.

Podlab was made possible by a charitable grant from longtime WHQR supporter Beth Crookham, in honor of her mother.

"In loving memory of Donna Crookham. She believed in the ability of kids, freedom of speech, and the importance of an informed public."

In fall of 2022, WHQR launched its effort to educate local high school students about journalism: PodLab. Once a week, reporter Kelly Kenoyer dropped in with the journalism class at Ashley High School to show students the ropes of audio reporting, and to talk about journalistic ethics, sourcing, how to find a story, and how to write a fair and balanced article. Yearbook Teacher Lisa Williams was instrumental in designing and applying the curriculum, and future students at other high schools benefited from her hard work and commitment.

Students learned a lot, produced audio journalism, and even toured WHQR's downtown studios. The students even joined reporter Camille Mojica on the Cape Fear Rundown podcast, and they learned how to look up criminal and civil court records at the courthouse.

They worked hard on audio reporting, and completed well-researched radio stories for PodLab.

Jackson Mott from Ashley High focused on book bans for his feature story.

After their semester learning from a professional reporter, the Ashley students started their own podcast! Their teacher, Lisa Williams, plans to use parts of the curriculum in future classes.

New Hanover High School

In Spring 2023, PodLab came to New Hanover High. This new crop of students was eager to learn, even as they still battled deadlines for their yearbook. They wrote serious stories about underage drinking, Sheriff Jodi Greene and his influence, and the short-term rental ban in Wilmington. Their reporting stood out for its seriousness and rigor, especially for the high school level.

New Hanover student Myona Harry wrote her report on the LGBTQ community's reaction to school board policies.

When the New Hanover students visited WHQR, they also learned about court records, and they also joined Cape Fear Rundown for an episode. They also got the chance to meet County Commissioner Rob Zapple and ask him about local government.

A few of the graduating seniors in each class are interested in pursuing journalism as they go off to college, and WHQR wishes them luck! And we remind them about our annual internship program, in case they're looking for something to do when they come home for summer.

In the future, WHQR hopes to expand the PodLab program and visit of all of the New Hanover County Schools high schools!

Here are some more examples of the student's work:

New Hanover student Maria Sullivan plans to attend UNC-Chapel Hill in the fall to major in journalism.
New Hanover student Maria Barriga-Mateos reported on the non-profit Mi Casa. She plans to attend UNC-Chapel Hill to major in journalism.
Student Maddie Sawyer covered the student mental health crisis for her assignment.