Summer 2018: Sheila Raghavendran

Editor’s note: This essay is part of an occasional series presenting the reflections of Chipsters as they complete their CQS internships.

Sheila RaghavendranHow taking initiative led to opportunity
By Sheila Raghavendran

It would have been easy for me to stay in my story bubble, reporting a series of features called WYSO Curious, as an intern last summer at WYSO Public Radio in Yellow Springs, Ohio. But I didn’t want to.

WYSO’s Hearken-based reporting project, WYSO Curious, collects questions about the area from listeners – questions about what’s going on with abandoned houses in the area, or how to get an issue on the ballot, or how a district got its name – and I was hired to find the answers.

These fun feature stories let me dig into the nuances of the community. But because of the nature of the topics – usually not hard-hitting news stories – it would sometimes be difficult to identify, contact and meet with the right sources right away. My supervisor called the process “feast or famine,” because the story leads often came all at once or not at all.

I didn’t want to spend my time at WYSO just waiting for potential sources to call me back. I found great story nuggets in local news and wanted to explore them, even though they weren’t part of the WYSO Curious series. Because of those interests, a mentor encouraged me to pitch news stories along with my assigned features.

My first pitch was for a story about a Dayton community center’s Juneteenth celebration, commemorating the day slavery was abolished in the United States, and my editors helped me turn that story into three different spots that aired on the station. I was proud of that work, because it was my original pitch and because it contributed to positive representation of Dayton’s African-American community.

Noticing my interest in news stories, another WYSO editor offered to let me freelance in addition to completing my WYSO Curious stories. That was an honor that helped me explore interesting facets of Dayton. I began to feel like I was understanding something deeper about the community, which is especially crucial for short-term journalism gigs.

Because of my initiative in pitching stories and letting my coworkers and editors know what I was interested in, I got to talk to many people and work on some memorable stories. The stories I worked on for WYSO Curious were equally compelling. For one, I drove around a blighted neighborhood with a community activist who petitioned the city to take care of its abandoned and vacant houses. Her passion and dedication inspired me.

It’s fitting that my experience at WYSO was based on taking leaps. I first heard about the summer position when I took a leap to introduce myself to the station’s manager at an audio conference the previous fall. I had heard that WYSO’s base was about an hour from my hometown. During our conversation, the general manager encouraged me to visit and apply for a summer internship. I am thankful for her generous invitation.

The pattern of taking initiative came full circle. I am endlessly grateful for having had the opportunity to work at WYSO and for being part of the Chips Quinn family. The welcoming station and supportive Chipster family pushed me to pitch and produce my best work.

Sheila Raghavendran (Summer 2018) graduated in May from Indiana University in Bloomington.

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