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Transom Podcast

52 EpisodesProduced by TransomWebsite is an experiment in channeling new work and voices to public radio through the internet, and for discussing that work, and encouraging more. Our podcast offers some tasty little audio morsels to go.


Portrait of the Bully as a Young Man

[“Portrait of the Bully as a Young Man” on PRX](%20 "PRX Piece")

About Portrait of the Bully as a Young Man

Sometime in the fall of 2010, after I had seen or heard or read another bullying story about terrible things happening to young people, I realized that the coverage of these terrible things was totally devoid of young people’s voices.

I started thinking that Generation PRX – the youth radio project I direct for PRX – could do something to change this. The 60 or so youth radio groups in the network encompass hundreds of teen producers or, put another way, a huge pool of actual experts on bullying. How could we give their stories more of an audience?

But sometimes, fields lay fallow a while. It took nearly a year before a grant came in to officially move the project forward (that project became Bullied: Teen Stories from Generation PRX, an hour-long special produced by Catie Talarski and Connecticut Public Radio). In the meanwhile, I put a call out to the GPRX network, I edited a story on bullying for Under the Sun in Miami, and I brought the idea of bullying to my students at the Long Creek Youth Development Center here in Maine. Which is when Jeff offered this: I’ve BEEN a bully. And not only have I been a bully, I’ve been a TERRIBLE bully. And the guy who expelled me? Works here now. I’ll talk about it.

And so it began.

Some Background or, Why this was all Terribly Uncomfortable

For the past 5 years, I’ve been Blunt Youth Radio Project’s Senior Producer for their Incarcerated Youth Speak Out Program. Along with Founder and Director (and unstoppable force of nature) Claire Holman, we teach radio broadcasting twice a week to 16-20 year-olds locked up at the Long Creek Youth Development Center. We use iMacs (remember those?) and MiniDisc recorders (and those?), and the kids spend six weeks producing features, which are then broadcast during Blunt’s regular weekly slot on WMPG. Students who have earned facility clearance come to the station to live host the show. Watching the kids on air – proud, nervous and getting through it all – ranks as some of the most exhilarating and rewarding teaching I’ve done. For many of the students, it’s the first time they are performing in public as well as the first time they experience the power of being listened to. They own that show, in every sense.

Long Creek Youth Development Center

So when Jeff offered to do a story on being a bully, we always assumed that the students in the class would produce it. They took turns interviewing Jeff, the principal, and local bullying authorities. They started to write and record tracking. But then the story started to get more complicated. It took longer. One by one, each of the other students was released from the jail. And finally, it was up to me, Claire and Jeff to see it through. Transom provided just the right motivation.

I should say off the bat: I’ve never tried this kind of collaboration before. I’ve been teaching radio to teens for nearly 10 years, but the roles have always been clear. The students produce, voice, imagine, create; I facilitate, guide, help where needed. Part of what I love about teaching radio is staying behind the scenes and witnessing my students arrive in themselves as storytellers.

With this piece, I found myself acting as both reporter and teacher, and what I discovered was…palpable inner conflict. As a teacher, if there’s tension or danger, I step in right away. I take seriously my obligation to keep the environment sa...

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