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Reflections on Return

Organization Youth Radio

Credits Youth Radio News Crew
with contributions from Blunt Youth Radio, Portland, ME.

Project home


Reflections on Return is a youth-produced radio series documenting the experiences of young troops coming home from the Iraq war. It is a project of Youth Radio, a youth development organization and independent media production company founded by Ellin O'Leary in 1992. Headquartered in Oakland, CA, Youth Radio produces stories and shows reaching massive audiences through local and national radio stations as well as outlets such as iTunes, Radio Bilingue, Current TV, YouTube, and MySpace. Several segments from Youth Radio's powerful series, Reflections on Return, aired on National Public Radio (which serves an estimated 27 million weekly listeners). read more

Unique Practices and Approaches: Conversational Scripting

What is immediately striking to any listener of Reflections on Return is the intimate presence and raw power of the soldiers' voices as they convey their stories and experiences. Written narration delivered by a radio reporter is a typical journalistic convention used to tell such stories. But in several of the Youth Radio segments, this convention has been stripped away in order to preserve the palpable experience provided by the first person/direct address of the soldiers. Remarkably, however, each essay-like story in Reflections on Return achieves a seamless narrative arc. To the listener, the authorial presence of the reporter is invisible and yet the youth perspectives of each piece are front and center.

To achieve this effect, Youth Radio producers developed a practice Lissa Soep calls, Conversational Scripting. This technique allows young reporters to cut and shape two-way conversations into two-to-four minute single-voice, first-person essays. read more

Unique Practices and Approaches: Counter Narratives through Collegial Pedagogy

The first person stories in Reflections on Return identify little-known dimensions of young military life while interrupting the typical debates and discourses about the war in the mainstream press. Youth Radio refers to these stories as counter-narratives. Two reports, in particular, Picturing War and Military Marriage Benefits, reveal how these powerful counter-narratives were developed within the educational framework of collegial pedagogy, a best practice utilized extensively at Youth Radio. Lissa Soep of Youth Radio points out that in each of these cases, youth reporters leveraged their analyses as young people by refusing to insert distance between themselves and the young soldiers' stories they were uncovering. read more

Change and Impact

  • Awarded the Edward R. Murrow Award for excellence in broadcast journalism
  • Using best practices in youth media production (as explored in the attached National Civic Review article), Youth Radio reporters were able to identify little-known dimensions of the war and young military life, interrupting the typical debates and discourses about the war in the mainstream press.
  • read more

Recommended Resources

Steve Goodman, Teaching Youth Media
Brian Goldfarb, Visual Pedagogy
Jabari Mahiri, What they Don't Learn in School
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