Just Handover the Mic

It’s so elegant. Genius really. Hand a mic to someone and let them record. In general, the tape they collect will be intimate, honest, and revealing. They will take you places few journalists can go. And, its an opportunity for people to speak directly for themselves — that’s empowering. And that, in short, is the idea behind Radio Rookies.

Radio Rookies is a project of WNYC in New York City. In short, they put mics in the hands and headphones on the ears of young people to document their lives. Obesity, immigration, violence, autism, racism… the Rookies tackle tough topics. In fact, the Rookies have produced some of the best radio documentaries in the last ten years.

On this Saltcast, we listen to “Heroin,” produced in 2001 by Janesse Nieves. This piece won the “Best New Producer” award at the Third Coast International Audio Festival.

While we’re at it, we should mention some of the other excellent radio documentaries where reporters handover the the mic. Ghetto Life 101 by Dave Isay. The Life Stories series by Jay Allison. And much of the work of Joe Richman and Radio Diaries.

Check out a slew youth radio programs at the National Federation of Community Broadcaster’s comprehensive Youth Program Directory. Another hot spot for youth produced radio is Generation PRX.

Happy listening.



  1. 3 Responses to “Just Handover the Mic”

  2. By Jones on Sep 9, 2008

    Oy. Such a powerful piece. Thanks for podcasting this and too for the GPRX shout. No question ’bout it; young people are making some knock-your-socks off radio.

    Wanted to share a link to an updated list and map of youth radio groups nationwide – over 60! – that we’ve working on: http://genprx.ning.com/page/page/show?id=825456%3APage%3A583

    Yr. fan,


  3. By allegra mira on Sep 17, 2008

    Hi Rob,

    I wonder who Janessa was imagining she was talking to while she narrated this piece. She does such a good job of stepping outside of her own life and narrating it to an outside audience, while still seeming intimate.

    It’s so hard to do that while we create personal pieces.

    Thanks for the inspiration…

    Allegra, Salt alum 2005

  4. By Rob on Sep 17, 2008

    Hey Allegra – Good to hear from you.

    Talking is the hardest part of radio. It shouldn’t be. We talk every day. So, you’d think walking into the booth and recording narration would be a piece of cake. But, something happens when you don the headphones, stand in front of a mic, and read a script. We forget who we are. This holds true for me in a big way. I have to work on being me — weird, eh? So, you are right. Janessa did a stupendous job being herself.


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