Sean Powers: Public radio gets me out of my comfort zone

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Current is marking the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act by illuminating the experiences that inspired people to choose to work in public media. Every week, we are sharing their stories using the hashtag #IAmPublicMedia. Current is also collecting longer contributions, like this one. If you’d like us to feature your story, submit it here.

Radio fell in my lap at a young age. I started working for my high school’s 1,500-watt radio station in the south suburbs of Chicago. As a sophomore, I was required to produce a documentary that was exactly 55 minutes to the second. I chose to look into teenage pregnancy. Hearing the stories of real people with real problems was like a light going off in my head. I knew journalism was the career I was destined to pursue for the rest of my life.

In the 15 years since that documentary about teenage pregnancy aired, I’ve had the pleasure to work at NPR stations in Atlanta; Columbia, Mo. and Urbana, Ill. I love the fact that as a journalist, I can get outside of my comfort zone and meet people who don’t look like me or sound like me. Hearing that diversity in news stories is what excites me the most about public radio.

Here in Georgia, I travel the state and get people on the air who you wouldn’t normally hear. I’m trying to spark that conversation between the station and its listeners. I don’t hear “no” very often when there’s a story I want to cover, but when I do, my colleagues do a great job helping me improve the idea.

This might be a little preachy, but I feel as if I can actually make a difference. The level of innovation and creativity in public media keeps me going, and I don’t see myself giving that up.