When Rebecca Bever and Jessica Testa would sit in the car on their way from the studio of KJZZ (91.5 FM), National Public Radio, they would often laugh at the irony of being stuck in traffic.
The seniors at Dobson High School in Mesa have spent months completing their story “Teens Getting Around,” about what teenagers think of regional transportation in the East Valley.
The story will air on KJZZ’s “Morning Edition” program at 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Friday.
The story is part of the Sonic Roots project, started by “Morning Edition” producer and reporter Tony Ganzer last year as a way to give teens a voice in mainstream media. Bever and Testa’s story is the second completed as part of the project.
Ganzer is as much teacher as he is a journalist and editor, showing the teens not only how to weave a good story but how to get it recorded.
He said working with the teens is all about respecting where they are coming from.
“I don’t want to say they’re not listened to,” he said. “But I don’t think a lot of teens know it’s OK to talk. I tell them, if you have a problem in your life that you think is interesting, let’s go figure it out.”
The Dobson students are co-editors of their high school’s newspaper, The Mustang Roundup, which they’ve been contributing to since they were sophomores. Testa is interested in studying print journalism when she heads to college this fall, and Bever is interested in studying computer science.
The pair said they made the perfect team because writing and technology both came into play in the project.
The idea was the hardest part of the project, and the students spent a lot of time brainstorming, considering a variety of subjects before settling on regional transportation.
“Transportation is such a big issue for everyone here, but from a teen’s perspective we wanted to know what we care about. Are we excited about light rail?” Testa said.
“People know we’re here,” Bever said. “But they don’t realize what a large group teens are or think about the fact that we are the future of transportation.”
For their story, they spoke with the Arizona Department of Transportation and Valley Metro and asked those agencies to consider what they do specifically from a teenager’s perspective.
The pair found that teens, by and large, said they desire more mass transportation options because many don’t have cars, and it’s better for the environment.
A large part of the project was familiarizing the students with the format and technology of radio.
“You have to account for sounds,” Bever said. “And you can’t ask broad questions because you’re trying to get very specific information out of people, you’re trying to get them to focus on teens.”
Being in the recording studio was one of the most exciting parts of the project, Bever said.
“It’s weird hearing your own voice, though” she said. “Once you’re in the booth, it’s soundproof, so it’s completely silent when you go in there, which is really kind of eerie. But once you have the headphones on, you feel so cool.”
The teens aren’t revealing exactly what they learned from their reporting.
For that, they say, tune in Friday.