At Big, we believe in bringing tried and true principles of reporting to our content process.
Yes, there are many fundamental differences between us and our peers in journalism, but our team calls on our accumulated editorial experience every day.
Case in point, editorial assistant Sarah Sherrill. Sarah, who joined Big earlier this year, was recently honored with numerous state and national awards for her reporting during the historic 50th anniversary of the attacks on voting rights marchers in Selma in 1965.
She was a student intern with Alabama Public Radio when she produced “Selma—This is Something I’ll Tell My Kids,” a documentary about Selma from the perspective of a young person. It was part of a group of documentaries called “More Bridges To Cross.”
Recently, the industry group Public Radio News Directors, Inc. (PRNDI) named Alabama Public Radio the winner of two first place PRNDI awards. “More Bridges To Cross” was also awarded first place in best short documentary by PRNDI. Sarah’s documentary won an Honorable Mention in the Alabama Press Association’s annual competition, among others.
We sat down to talk with Sarah about her experiences in producing the public radio documentary,and the skills that bridge between traditional journalism and creating content in an agency setting.
Tell us a bit about the process of reporting and producing the audio documentary.
My classmates and I were assigned stories to report on by the Selma Times that would be featured in their Bloody Sunday 50th Anniversary Magazine. Pat Duggins, the News Director at APR, thought it could be a great story to cover this through the eyes of young people, so he gave me an assignment to follow around my peers while reporting with a recording device through the streets of Selma. I followed my classmates to the jail where MLK was held and stood in the cell that MLK was held in while she conducted an interview.
This was part of a University of Alabama journalism class and internship at Alabama Public Radio that took place around the time of the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. APR gave me a recording device and my classmates and I went to report in Selma from the perspective of young journalists. We were asked to describe what it was like to cover something that happened before we were born that has impacted our country in such a major way.
My classmates and I interviewed many people who were in Selma that day, and those instrumental in the Civil Rights movement, people like Frederick D. Reese, who marched along side Martin Luther King Jr. When we got back to town, I worked with APR’s news director, Pat Duggins. Pat and I co-produced it. She was amazing in helping me shape a vision and edit the piece.
What did you learn in the process?
In light of current events, this reporting seems all the more relevant. I realized that even though I grew up in Alabama, I didn’t know as much about the Civil Rights Movement as I thought. Interviewing people who were affected by discrimination and violence made it all the more real.
I also learned what it takes to be a reporter. My classmates and I had to step out of our comfort zones in order to get the material we were after. We hit many road blocks and had to figure out a way around them. You can’t learn how to be a good reporter in the classroom—you’ve got to get out on the streets to gather stories.
What lessons have you taken from your journalism education and applied to creating content in your role as an editorial assistant at Big?
I think what I bring from my journalism background is the ability to dig deeper into stories, and find creative approaches.
Reporting skills are useful in creating all kinds of content. You learn attention to detail, which is important in what we do daily. As a journalist, you learn about a variety of topics, how to talk with anyone and make people feel comfortable. These skills translate into storytelling in general.