Emily Proctor talked with Vietnam War veteran Roger Cox for an hour and a half with the recorder running. She cut these 90 minutes down to three minutes and thirty-seven seconds of Cox’s own narrative, not adding a word of her own. The final piece, “Roger Cox’s Vietnam,” was one of two stories she submitted to the 2015 Hearst Journalism Awards Program. On February 3rd, 2016, the Hearst Radio News and Features competition ranked Proctor 9th in the nation.
“I had an ah-ha moment with this piece,” Proctor said. “It totally changed what I wanted to do with my career.”
Over the course of the interview Proctor probed deeper into Cox’s memories as a marine in the Vietnam War. As she edited the piece, she listened to the moments where Cox’s stolid replies began to falter. Proctor felt the power of Cox’s voice and the emotion it carried without needing any extra narrative.
Assistant Professor Jule Banville, who worked with Proctor on the story as part of her Intermediate Audio class, watched Proctor’s interest in radio grow. “He was just really honest with her about what happened there and what he thinks about it now,” Banville said. “And because what she produced was his voice telling his story, it had so much more power for her than any journalism she’d done before. It just clicked.”
The story aired on the podcast Last Best Stories, and the full interview can be accessed through the Veterans History Project.
Since graduating last May, Proctor’s been working on some independent radio projects, including a Montana-themed piece about the modern cowboy. This summer she will be doing more radio work in Alaska and potentially connecting with J-school alum Ruth Eddy, who works at a public radio station in Ketchikan. However, Proctor’s next major goal involves going to graduate school for audio design, hopefully in Germany or New Zealand, she said.
When Proctor studied abroad in Athens, Greece, she shot a short documentary about the smoking culture and its importance to their society. She also tried to produce some audio stories, but said, “The language barrier made it hard to do good radio.”
Proctor addressed this issue again in the second story she submitted to the 2015 Hearst Awards, a piece called “Language Is No Barrier For Senior Companions.” The story centers on Frank Havlik, a native from the Czech Republic who now lives in Missoula and volunteers as a Senior Companion. Coming from Stanford, Montana, Proctor was conscious of the fact that her Montana audience wasn’t used to hearing a heavy Czech accent, so she took care choosing the most enunciated sound bites.
“I wanted to cover all my bases and make sure people understood the story,” Proctor said. She added her own voice-over narrative and provided a complete transcript when the story aired on MTPR on April 28th, 2015.
“I’m pretty insanely proud of her,” Banville said. “She went on to intern at Montana Public Radio, so she’s got some news chops too, and I’m so glad the judges recognized her talent.”
By Jana Wiegand