UNM’s Department of Communication & Journalism (C&J) has just played a critical role in Indigenous storytelling for years to come.

The Department hosted NPR’s Next Generation Radio Program, an outstanding project based out of the decades-old media organization.

“It’s a testament to UNM’s commitment to diversity that we were invited to host this training. It is a true catapult for emerging talent,” C&J Professor Michael Marcotte said.

NPR’s Next Gen Radio is a national program which began in 2000 to encourage the next generation of storytellers to embrace audio-driven narratives. Colleges, universities, and NPR member stations have sponsored 23 years of the week-long intensive.  

This year, the Indigenous-centered session took place in Albuquerque. C&J faculty and staff partnered with Founder and Director Doug Mitchell, to provide spaces, equipment, support and training for the chosen participants.

“What Doug Mitchell and his team of trainers do is more than teaching skills and ethics in multimedia storytelling,” Marcotte said. “They are mentoring a lasting network of confident, up-and-coming, diverse professionals. This is very valuable for them, and very valuable for our media outlets. Mitchell himself has been passionate about telling Indigenous stories since he was born in Oklahoma. As an avid member of the Indigenous Journalists Association (IJA,) and having reported with students on Indian Country in New Mexico before, Mitchell knew UNM would be a perfect choice for the 2023 cohort.

“It's like that phrase 'life's a circle.’ These past experiences and current collaborations with IJA meant we should do a project in Albuquerque, and we began planning that more than a year ago,” Mitchell said.

Up-and-coming journalists, in college and beyond, are paired with an experienced professional journalist for a jam-packed week to produce a three to four minute non-narrated audio piece. They also create a written version of that story and an explainer video with advanced equipment.

“This program at UNM is part of our series of ‘early-career’ programs for competitively selected Indigenous storytellers and rising journalists. This means they have, at most, five years of professional experience,” Mitchell said.

The mentees pitch and coordinate their own stories with real members of the community they are based in. This year, 2023 participants found New Mexicans who could speak to the theme ‘meaning of home.’

“This project will be our 12th of 2023. That's a record. This project will be our third with the IJA this year, another record,” Mitchell said. “I like to call it ‘proof of concept’–that is, I've always believed that we in the media, and especially in not-for-profit media, need to reach out and provide mentoring and coaching to those who are rising behind us. In 2024, it looks like we could break our record with


total projects.”

Every day, the cohort members are out in the field, gathering stories, creating graphics and social media posts, taking photos and videos all while editing it all together to meet tight, hour-by-hour deadlines.  At the end of the week, the pieces go live, and participants present their final projects.

“This level of continued commitment from sponsors and funders around the U.S. and seeing the light bulbs go on during our closing presentations is VERY, VERY satisfying,” Mitchell said.

Since beginning, Next Gen Radio has turned out 81 projects and 459 alumni, most of whom have since earned jobs in media. It’s a huge testament to the fight for journalism as a career.

I don't think of this work as a means of saving journalism. What we do is either reinforce what they've wanted to do, or open their eyes to what they could do,” Mitchell said. “Then, on the way, we transparently and inclusively connect people with other people.  I don't think of this as any more complicated than that.” 

UNM was thrilled to help Next Gen Radio reach new heights in its project totals, and propel New Mexican and Indigenous voices forward.  

“I hope we can bring the Next Gen Radio team back again and again. They are a small but mighty accelerator for growing diverse talent in journalism… and we have great synergy with them,” Marcotte said.

View the incredible stories and projects this team created while at UNM here