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Radio documentaries tell stories of Ozarks

December 19, 2011
By cnp
Posted in Communication Studies

Human beings are story tellers. In fact, some researchers have suggested that all human communication is narrative, and that humans are more likely to be persuaded by a good story than by the logic of a good argument.

Whether we consciously realize it or not, we all engage in storytelling during our day-to-day interactions. But while our stories are usually told with words, we may not even realize the other types of sensory cues we use - body language, facial expression, hand movements, or other types of sensory cues all help embellish our stories and add interest and emphasis to our words.

But what if all those subtle sensory cues were taken away? How well do you think you could tell a story using only words and sounds? This was the challenge for the students in the fall 2011 Radio Production class: find a compelling subject and then create a short radio documentary of that subject.

Equipped with only a digital recorder, the four students set out to capture the dialog and sounds they would use to tell their story to the radio audience.

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"Halloween…for some people, it is just an opportunity to dress up. For others, it means going out trick-or-treating and having fun. For the Clarksville community, Halloween is also an opportunity to get together, enjoy good music, good food, or just carve a scary face in a pumpkin." Thus begins the documentary created by Ivan Chavez, a senior management/administration and marketing major from Guatemala City, Guatemala.

Entitled "Halloween Traditions in the Clarksville Community," Chavez’s documentary looks at four events that took place on campus and in the Clarksville community during Halloween: the campus costume ball, the annual Halloween organ concert, the pumpkin carving event at the home of Dr. Niece, and the "Safe Treat" event organized by the Clarksville Police Department. Through a series of short interviews and sounds that establish the scenes for the events, Chavez explores the planning that went into some of the events, and the reactions of the people who attended them.

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Silvana Duarte, a senior from Managua, Nicaragua who is majoring in psychology of human behavior and strategic communication, chose a familiar face around campus as the subject of her documentary - university president Dr. Rick Niece.

"One day, it was raining a lot, and my umbrella was broken," Silvana said. "He saw me walking, and I was getting wet, so he gave me his umbrella, and ran back to his office - and he got all wet. I was so surprised that he was so nice to me, that I decided to wanted to do a little bit of research on his life and who he is, to learn a little bit more about him." Her documentary begins with the sound of footsteps, an office door opening, and of a pot of coffee being put on to brew - the sounds of Dr. Niece’s everyday routine. Her interview then takes listeners through the early years of Dr. Niece’s life, his first love, and some events of his early adult years, including his marriage to First Lady, Sherée, and his tenure as president at University of the Ozarks.

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Kourtney Risher, a junior Radio/Television/Video major from El Dorado, Ark., chose the university’s Jones Learning Center as his subject. "I titled mine ‘JLC: a Beacon of Hope,’" he said. "I hoped to capture the essence of what the JLC is, and how it helps people."

Risher’s documentary opens with a conversation with JLC Director, Julia Frost, who describes how the JLC first began. The story then takes listeners into the world of a currently enrolled JLC student -- the student describes the difficulties that his learning disability created when he was young child and the struggles his family went through trying to help him. "I didn’t learn how to read until I was about 11 years old," the student said. "The words were just gibberish." He goes on to explain how he learned about the JLC, and describes some of the ways his program coordinator helps him overcome his disability. Risher then talks with Debbie Carlton, program coordinator in the JLC, to learn more about the types of services the program offers, and to learn how she views the interactions between coordinators and students. At the end, Risher gives listeners his own perspective on the program after revealing that he is also enrolled in the program. "I know the value of this 40-year old light in the tunnel of life," he concludes.

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Corey Snyder, a freshman Radio/Television/Video major from Clarksville, Tenn., also did a documentary about the JLC, but approached the subject from a different perspective. "When I first thought about the project, I had a couple of different ideas," he said. Ultimately, he said he decided to interview his aunt, Susan Hurley, a former program coordinator in the JLC. "She has a lot of ties to this campus, both as a student, and within the learning center," he said. "It’s a small town, and she knows everybody around here. I wanted to explore those ties."

Hurley’s story begins as she recalls her bus ride to Clarksville, and her first days as a student at Ozarks. She goes on to describe how she came to work in the JLC, and reflected on some of the challenges her students faced, and how they overcame those challenges. Snyder and Hurley then returned to campus, to tour of current JLC facilities, and reminisce on how things have changed since she left the center. Snyder incorporates audio from Hurley’s reunion with her former co-workers, emphasizing for the listeners just how strong her ties are even to this day.

The documentaries premiered on December 7, and will air on KUOZ-LP 100.5 FM over the winter break.