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November 27, 2023
By Annalynn Mueller, junior English Major
Pictured above: Media that Sarah processed while working with Jefferson Public Radio
Nearing the end of her undergraduate journey, senior English major Sarah Sturley was looking for a way to complete the Professional Writing Badge and qualify for a Certificate in Writing and Rhetoric in order to graduate. She hoped to find something that not only checked the requirements, but also helped her apply her English degree to something that she loved. With the help of English faculty, Sarah got connected with Jefferson Public Radio (JPR) and spent the summer uncovering old media. JPR has been working to digitize their archives, including comic issues drawn by journalism students in 1977.Sara’s Internship experience helped her gain lots of new skills, a higher level of confidence, and a different outlook on the world around her.
Pictured Above: Sarah Sturley
Sarah came to SOU fall of 2020 after graduating from Grants Pass High School the previous spring. Because her first year of college was online due to COVID-19, she did not choose her major right away, but in her second year declared her major as English and her minor as Creative Writing. Sarah originally thought that she wanted to pursue only creative writing but after taking Dr.Ed Battistella’s classes on technical and grant writing, found her niche.
“I find that grant writing combines the structures I love from my English classes with some of the creativity from creative writing in just the right ways.”
– Sarah Sturley
After connecting with the English Program chair Dr. Margaret Perrow and discussing how to complete the Professional Writing Badge before graduating, Sarah got in touch with the Jefferson Public Archive manager, Maureen Battistella, who had written and received a grant to help rescue some of the old JPR media from before the times of digital libraries. Sarah and Maureen met and figured out how to convert and salvage the information. Maureen was “so pleased to have had the opportunity to work with Sarah” as she demonstrated patience, critical thinking and attention to detail.
Sarah’s ability to “describe and analyze audio records from an era before she was born was interesting to watch and curious to think about.”
– Maureen Battistella
The first task was separating what media could be saved and what could not. Then, Sarah sorted what was left, transferred it to a computer, and sent it off to a library that had more capacity to listen to the information. Then, Sarah received audio files: “Most of the recordings I listened to were the “Jefferson Daily” episodes from 1994, and I was tasked with listening to each episode and noting the audio quality, length and size of each file, and providing a written synopsis of what each recording was about.”
Pictured Above: More of the archived materiel Sarah sorted through.
At first many of these tasks seemed daunting. Sarah describes having trouble with her own time management, but the most challenging part was her lack of knowledge about certain topics, due to their historical nature. When working with physical media, not recognizing strings of words together was challenging. She then asked Maureen for help because she had more experience reading messy handwriting, puzzling out the jumbled phrases, and more context on the 1990s that was not familiar to Sarah. Similarly, there were times when the audio files were difficult to understand. For example, Sarah heard “Joy Soaks” throughout the internship until an especially clear recording when she realized it was really “Joyce Oaks.” Sarah would often have to “listen to the introduction between 5 and 10 times to make sure [she] caught all the information [she] needed.”
“The best parts were hearing all the history recorded on each file. A lot happened in 1994 and it was fun to listen while knowing how everything has played out since then.”
– Sarah Sturley
The challenges that this internship gave Sarah were nothing compared to all that she learned! She enjoyed listening to the episodes and learning about what was happening in the Rogue Valley and beyond. Because Sarah, like many other current college students, has only lived in a post 9/11 world, it shocked her to learn about the 1993 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center: “It amazed me to realize I knew nothing about the World Trade Center other than what happened on 9/11.”
Some of the other highlights from the 1990s that Sarah learned about included:
- Southern Oregon University was still Southern Oregon State College.
- The law that requires children under 16 to wear bike helmets was passed.
- OJ Simpson’s trial was featured multiple times.
- While critiquing First Lady Hillary Clinton’s influence on President Clinton, one of the show hosts said he would vote for her if she ran in the future.
- A verdict was passed concerning the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
- The “information superhighway” was making its way to Oregon and certain nonprofits were trying to make it affordable for the average person.
- The “new” rising prices of college meant young adults were starting their lives with tons of debt.
- Cell phone usage was starting to be connected to traffic accidents.
- What would become Seven Feathers announced that it would be more than a high-stakes BINGO hall.
- An interview with Betty LaDuke before she went to Africa again (her artwork is still in the Hannon Library).
Pictured Above: Betty LaDuke teaching at SOU. Image from the SOU Sesquicentennial Anniversary page.
On top of getting to learn about all the history, Sarah enjoyed learning about metadata and how audio files work. She had “never done anything like this before, so it was a brand new experience.” Sarah also became a JPR listener throughout the summer. She had “never paid much attention to the news” but now she has her car “turned to JPR and will listen to the Jefferson Public Radio daily.” The archived news was fun for Sarah to listen to two decades later because she knew what was going to happen. She ended up finding out that listening to news now is also captivating because she is experiencing history right along with everyone else.
“I keep thinking about how this will all become history as I get older and I will remember it because I was listening as it happened.”
– Sarah Sturley
With her first internship under her belt, and nearing her graduation, Sarah found it incredibly helpful to work professionally with skills related to her major. Her internship was enjoyable and helped cultivate skills that she will use throughout her life. Sarah’s work this past summer will extend beyond the Rogue Valley and ‘be part of a national public broadcasting initiative at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a partnership of GBH in Boston, Massachusetts and the Library of Congress to preserve our nation’s media and make it available to the public.” Her English degree was at play every day throughout the internship, helping her understand tasks and think critically about her work.
“While I was learning almost everything from scratch, a lot of it was similar to how I would research for a paper.”
– Sarah Sturley
Sarah is planning on moving out of the Rogue Valley and pursuing grant writing, but is open to other opportunities like working in libraries, disability resource departments, or historical sites. Whatever incredible opportunities come her way, she will use her English degree and the skills she learned through the JPR internship!
Interested in being featured on the English Program blog? Or know someone who is interested? Contact English Program blogger Annalynn Mueller at firstname.lastname@example.org .