Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Hansi Wang ’09, former War News Radio producer and founder of the Lang Scholar project Chinatown Youth Radio Philadelphia, is now a recipient of the prestigious NPR Kroc Fellowship. This one-year fellowship focuses on nurturing young radio talent and training them at each stage of radio journalism, including producing, editing, and reporting. Each Kroc Fellow receives an annual stipend of more than $40,000 with benefits and paid vacation. Based in Washington, DC, Wang started last Monday and will spend about three months in different NPR departments, learning about the organization’s multifaceted approach to journalism. Wang sat down with the Daily Gazette to talk more about this great opportunity and what he’s looking forward to.
DG: First of all, congratulations on this great opportunity. I’ve noticed that at Swarthmore, you had an extensive background in radio journalism, especially with War News Radio and the Chinatown Youth Radio Philadelphia project. After graduating Swarthmore, why did you decide to still pursue journalism, particularly radio journalism?
HW: I’ve wanted to be a journalist since I was a kid. After working on War News Radio, I caught the public radio bug and fell in love with storytelling through audio. One of things I love about radio is that you don’t have to know how to read to get information. You just have to listen. I am inspired by the great potential of creating a wider informed public, of all backgrounds and interests, through public radio. Plus, I see journalism as a great way to continue my “liberal arts” education after Swarthmore.
DG: The fellowship description mentions you should “anticipate an intensive, year-long program at NPR and member stations.” Can you give us a bit more background on what exactly you do on a day to day basis?
HW: Right now, I’m in the middle of a two-week-long boot camp on radio reporting. My two fellow Kroc Fellows and I are being trained by NPR producers on basic skills like pitching a story, recording sound, and writing for broadcast. After boot camp, we will each be assigned to either the digital news department, which creates content for NPR’s website; the national desk, which covers domestic stories; or an NPR program, like Weekend All Things Considered, for a three-month rotation. In the spring, we will also be sent to a NPR member station, and will join the local news department as a reporter. I have heard that previous Kroc Fellows have played a very hands-on role during their rotations, from researching and booking guests for interviews to editing audio and even reporting on the radio or for the website.
DG: The fellowship describes giving you and your co-fellows “hands-on training in every aspect of public radio journalism — writing, reporting, producing and editing.” Is there any specific aspect that appeals to you? What aspect of this fellowship are you the most excited about?
HW: If I had to pick, one of my favorite parts of the process is interviewing. It’s an awesome privilege to be able to walk up to strangers with a microphone and just start chatting them up. I also love “laying up” or mixing a radio story. It’s generally the last step in the process when all of the puzzle pieces — audio excerpts of interviews, background and ambient sound from the scene of the story, and the reporter’s narration — are put together to create the report that listeners will eventually hear on the air or online.
DG: What are some challenges that you anticipate for this coming year?
HW: This will be my first experience working at national news outlet, and I will be working alongside some of the top professionals in the journalism. Of course, my War News Radio experience has prepared me well for this fellowship year, but it’s going to be a different ballgame on a much bigger scale. This is also my first time living and working in Washington, DC, so I’m still getting used to being in a new city.
DG: Given your success with competitive fellowships, such as this Kroc Fellowship and Philly Fellows, what sort of advice would you give for Swatties applying to these types of competitive fellowships?
HW: Well, I think luck has a lot to do with it, but you have to be ready and prepared when luck strikes you. Form a support team around you who can read through your application and give feedback and suggestions, especially when you’ve hit a wall with writing an essay or cover letter. I couldn’t have prepared such a strong application without the help of my strong team of mentors and friends.
DG: Just for fun, can you give us some tips on honing your “radio voice”?
HW: (laughs) I’m still trying to hone my own radio voice. But the most valuable piece of advice I’ve gathered is to be relaxed and comfortable, which, of course, is easier said than done. You have to figure out what tricks will help you get there. Usually I stretch before I head into the sound booth. Taking deep breaths and yawning beforehand also helps.
DG: Given opportunities in many other radio stations and organizations, why did you choose to work for NPR?
HW: Unfortunately, there aren’t many paid, full-time job opportunities at radio stations and other news organizations right now, and competition is especially stiff as many experienced journalists are also on the job hunt. More importantly, however, NPR is one of the most respected news organizations in the world, and I’m very grateful to have been chosen for this unique fellowship opportunity. I am inspired by NPR’s commitment to not only produce quality journalism but also make that valuable content available to as many people as possible regardless of media platform. Journalism is undergoing a revolution, and to be a Kroc Fellow at an organization that’s on the front lines of innovations with digital media and local news coverage; it’s a dream come true.