Many people had dream jobs when they were kids. Some wanted to be astronauts, firefighters, doctors, ballerinas or teachers — the usual. The city of Urbana is trying to let kids in the community who want to be reporters live out their dreams.
Kids can be “youth correspondents” on a WRFU radio show through the local “Outta The Mouths of Babes” program. Partially funded by an Urbana Arts Grant from the city of Urbana, the program lasts 12 weeks and allows kids to comment on social, political and cultural events in the community. It is an introduction to the world of journalism in Champaign-Urbana.
This program is like a journalism summer camp for kids. They get to attend events, interview people — everything they do is recorded — and sometimes even get to record it themselves. Their work airs on Saturdays and Sundays at noon on WRFU, 104.5 FM.
Rachel Storm is one of the creators and directors of this program. She co-directs the program with her boyfriend, Alex Cline. Storm has always known she wanted to get into radio. After a little inspiration from a fellow artist, she finally found the motivation to create the program.
“(Alex and I) both attended a gong performance last October from Tatsuya Nakatani at the YMCA on campus,” Storm said. “We watched as our artist-friend’s son closed his eyes and began moving his arms to music that most would consider not something you dance to.”
She said this event really shaped her vision for the “Outta The Mouths of Babes” project.
“It was this vivid reminder that kids seem to see the world in ways that we don’t,” Storm said. “It helped us imagine that capturing that and giving youth space to share that with others could be a great contribution to the Urbana-Champaign arts scene.”
Storm and Cline are no strangers to community involvement, though.
“I work as the program coordinator of the Women’s Resources Center on campus, teach arts classes at the School of Radical Arts at the Channing Murray Foundation and have years of experience working with youth and arts education,” Storm explained. “Alex works as the venue coordinator of the Independent Media Center where he has been exposed to the ins and outs of low-power radio.”
In “Outta the Mouths of Babes,” kids get fully immersed in the world of journalism.
“They are taught how to approach people, gather interviews and document what they see,” Storm said. “They are armed with journals, cameras and are encouraged to draw, describe and interpret what they see.”
The kids get to cover pretty much all the cultural happenings in the community. The youth have covered the “¡Carnaval!” exhibit at Spurlock Museum, witnessed the planting of a community garden — the Designers Garden at the corner of Green Street and Cedar Street in Urbana — and participated in a traditional tea ceremony at the Japan House.
Storm and Cline said these kids are on a tight schedule, and Storm has nothing but exciting plans in store for these mini-reporters.
“We have them covering Blues, Brews and BBQ; a didgeridoo performance; a steel drum band and all kinds of events,” Storm said. “Each correspondent also has their own blog where their notes, drawings, videos and artwork are featured.”
For Storm and Cline, it was really important that the kids could share what they are doing with the rest of the community.
“They are documenting arts and cultural programs in Champaign-Urbana but also sharing what they experience and create,” Storm said. “Our reception at the end of the summer will invite the public to meet the youth correspondents, view their work, ask them questions and celebrate their achievements.”
More importantly, the program is supposed to motivate kids to get involved in journalism. It can be intimidating for kids to tackle such a complex field, Storm said.
“We want to de-mystify art-making, journalism and radio,” she said. “Corporate media leads us to believe that you have to be an expert to be a journalist, and our program offers a challenge to that idea.”
For Storm and Cline, it is all about teaching children the importance of community journalism.
“Community journalism is about creating an archive of our collective community history,” Storm said. “Everyone has a story — big or small.”
The “Outta the Mouths of Babes” podcasts can be heard at http://podcasts.outtathemouthsofbabes.com/.