Radio is such an influential and freely accessible medium that can reach even the most remote areas of the world. So what happens when you combine the passion of young people with the medium of radio?
Young people who are passionate about issues that matter to them are such a formidable force for blazing new pathways into new paradigms of thinking and action. A dynamic and very inspirational example is Sweden’s famous climate activist, 16 year-old Greta Thunberg. In less than a year, Greta has ignited a massive global movement of millions of young people. Including children as young as six! Because of her they are speaking out, standing up and walking out of school to make their feelings known about just how important creating a sustainable future is for everyone. Today’s youth will inherit the biggest issue of all: the very survival of humanity.
Exploring the numerous doors and windows that youth radio opens to the world
Youth radio is potentially one of the most powerful of media to bring about positive outcomes. It gives young people a global voice through solution-based reporting and proactive citizenship.
As a radio producer and presenter with over a decade in the industry before I turned 20, I can say with the wisdom of experience that, more than any mainstream media sector, such as free-to-air TV or commercial radio, it is the community broadcasting industry, online radio and podcasting platforms that provide the biggest opportunity for young people to explore their true potential. On radio young people can share their creative drive, ideas and innovations for creating a future we can all enjoy. It is pretty rare to find children or teenagers producing or hosting mainstream media. Yet there are heaps of young people volunteering in the community broadcasting sector all over Australia. They are both on the mic and behind the scenes.
Being a Gen Z and 1999-er
One of my very first interviews was with renowned futurist and best-selling author of ‘Designing 2050’, Dr Peter Ellyard. I was 10 years old at the time. As a 1999-er I remember that light-bulb moment when he pointed out that I was born in a different decade, century and millennium from my younger brother. My decade saw the birth of global giant Google. My century saw the launch of television. And my millennium saw the invention of the very first ‘mass communication’ device, the printing press, in 1450. Four hundred years later, radio, an almost ‘magical’ major advancement in global communication, made its debut on the world’s stage when Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi flashed the first wireless radio signal across the English Channel in 1895.
According to Google we are the generation that is the most global, social, visual and technological. Supposedly we are also the most connected, educated and sophisticated generation ever. We project an influence way beyond our years (think Greta Thunberg). Dr Ellyard said that instead of being nationalists, Gen Zs are ‘planetists’. We have a loyalty to our home planet, rather than our home nation. We, more than any generation before us, are part of the global community.
On World Humanitarian Day in 2014, my team and I spoke with Kieran Dwyer. He is Chief of Communications at the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. We were live-to-air, while he was in the middle of coordinating an evacuation during the Iraq war! I was 14 at the time. We didn’t know that this UN Chief of Comms had just dodged a bullet – quite literally – only minutes before he called us, as promised, via a satellite phone from the heart of the evacuation effort. The interview had been booked weeks in advance. None of us knew where he would be at the time of our call. Yet still he honoured his commitment to speak with our young team on live radio, about World Humanitarian Day.
What other medium would have offered a bunch of 12 to 14 year-olds such an opportunity at such a momentous occasion?
Radio provides the intimacy of feeling connected when listening to someone talking about a topic that really means something to you. At the same time it provides the safety of anonymity, which just doesn’t exist in television, video, or YouTube for example. Radio offers a platform for young people to talk about challenging topics and remain safely anonymous, if needs be. It might also strengthen Gen Z’s rapidly declining listening and language skills, and extend our attention span to something longer than reading a meme.
A short list of ‘wow moments’ from over 1000 interviews
Having conducted well over a thousand interviews of so many amazing people from all over the world, I find it hard to pick my favourites. I loved speaking with the SETI Institute’s Senior Astronomer, Seth Shostak, about the search for extra terrestrial life; and with world-renowned cinematographer Louis Schwartzberg about his mind-blowing 3D and time-lapse photography. It was amazing being the only child reporter at the Melbourne Star Trek Convention when I was 11 years old. I got to speak with William Shatner, Suzie Plakson, and my screen hero of the time, Scott Bakula.
It is always an honour and privilege to be able to share someone’s story. Probably the most memorable moment of all would be when our team met our International Patron, Dame Jane Goodall. We had an exclusive interview. It was incredible to sit in the presence of such a wise and dedicated Earth Steward, who has devoted her life to inspiring young people all over the world to care for nature, humanity and our precious planet. Through her Roots & Shoots programs, across more than 140 countries, Jane has motivated literally millions of young people globally to take up the challenge of creating an equitable and sustainable future. Young Roots & Shoots members are active across 72% of nations across our entire planet!
Become a part of the solution you seek
Now, you may well be thinking I am biased in radio’s favour. However, as the junior president of a youth media network, I know that all of the many dozens of young people who have been a part of our crew over the last decade have gained valuable life skills. Also life-enhancing experiences, way beyond knowing how to interview a rock star, zoologist, or astrophysicist. Youth radio provides opportunities to learn far more about life and our world than a classroom could ever offer! So if you are now thinking that you’d love to explore the doors and windows that radio opens to the world, how about contacting your local community station and offering to volunteer?
Every community station is always happy to welcome new volunteers to share the workload and fun that is part of the daily life of a community radio studio… And then, to paraphrase Gandhi, you too can become part of the solution you seek, and be the change you want to see in the world!
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Pictured above: Dame Jane Goodall [centre] with SBN’s 2014 team [left to right]. Rupert Kelderman, Frank Dixon, Hanna Malone, Alex Grech, Joe Young, Broden Krause, Circe Moloney-Wise, Miani Rose Mischon, Harry McLeod. Photographer: Emma Malone.
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