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When Jane Spencer '99, learned that WBRU's news department had won six Associated Press awards for excellence in broadcast journalism, she was thrilled but not entirely surprised. After all, the department took five awards in the Massachusetts/ Rhode Island college category just last year. What did surprise Spencer, WBRU's news director, however, was the station's winning 1997 News Station of the Year honors in its division, a first for the Brown-affiliated commercial radio station.

 

 


News Director Jane Spencer in the WBRU studio: learning, doing, and then passing it on.

 

And what a division it is. Massachusetts has such broadcasting powerhouses as Emerson College in Boston and a number of other schools able to tap into resident broadcast-journalism departments. WBRU not only lacks the support of a journalism department, it doesn't even have a faculty adviser. The teaching that takes place within the station's Benevolent Street office is all student to student. Spencer, for example, learned news directing from Tori Kronhaus '99, last year's news director. This kind of peer teaching must be working. Spencer was responsible for two of the four stories that picked up this year's first-place Associated Press awards: a piece on the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, which forces museums to give back certain Native American artifacts, and a feature on sleep disorders.

Spencer's stories aired as part of WBRU's weekly fifteen-minute newsmagazine, The Point, as did a series on the revitalization of downtown Providence that earned Pari Shah '00 and Zach Block '99 a first-place award for continuing coverage. Interviewing prominent government officials is one of the many perks of working at WBRU, says Shah, who talked to Providence Mayor Vincent ("Buddy") Cianci for her Point series. "It's cool that people in Providence respect us as a real radio station," she says. "We get to cover things, like the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, that students wouldn't [normally] be able to cover."

As for her award, Shah says that it brings responsibility with it: "The people who trained me won an award, and I finally won mine. What they taught me, I get to teach to an intern."





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