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Pensacola native takes part in NPR training

Sierra Lyons in the field at From the Ground Up Community Garden.
Elizabeth Eubanks
From the Ground Up Community Garden
Sierra Lyons in the field at From the Ground Up Community Garden.

NPR’sNextGenRadio provides emerging journalists around the country the opportunity to learn how to report and produce a multimedia story with audio. In January, the project worked with Florida students, including Pensacola native Sierra Lyons who produced a piece about From the Ground Up Community Garden.

Lyons is a recent graduate of the Florida A&M University where she studied journalism. Since graduation, she’s been working as a freelance writer and even started a podcast — her “pandemic project” as she calls it titled“Sit Still with Sierra.” When a friend told her about the NextGenRadio program, she took the chance and applied.

“So, I just went for it and applied to it and the founder and director of the program, Doug, he was super, super nice and welcoming,” she said.

As part of the Florida Newsroom cohort of journalists, Lyons was assigned during the five-day training to produce a story about someone whose life was being affected by climate change. Her story, and a handful of others from Florida students, highlight the hope and determination of people who are working to make a change.

Lyons chose to interview Elizabeth Eubanks, the lead gardener of From the Ground Up Community Garden, both for her passion and for her knowledge about growing food.

“I was really trying to wrack my brain and I thought ‘oh my gosh, Elizabeth at From the Ground Up Community Garden,’” Lyons said. “She’s doing excellent work with her and her team. She has volunteers that come in Monday through Friday for the most part, anyone from the community is welcome to come in and learn how to garden and that so ties into climate change so I was like I have to see if she is up to doing a more long-form interview this time around.”

Lyons worked alongside NPR producers, learning how to edit audio, take photos, and put together the digital story.

“I took a lot of out of (it),” she said. “I learned a lot about Adobe Audition in such a short amount of time, to edit my own audio, so, I would say that was the biggest takeaway but everyone, every part of the team was so crucial.”

And, because this is NPR, Lyons gained a deeper appreciation for audio production. Something she says will be useful in the future.

Sierra Lyons in the WUWF studio.
Jennie McKeon
WUWF Public Media
Sierra Lyons in the WUWF studio.

“Just learning about the different types of sound — the ambient noise, the room tone, the main interview — and just making it really feel like you’re in the room with the person when you’re listening to it,” she said. “So, I learned a lot — a lot of skills I can transfer to my podcast.”

With newspapers closing and newsrooms across the country scaling back, Lyons is entering a field with a lot of unknowns. But she’s optimistic about her future, and more so, the future of radio, a medium she’s grown up with.

“The world of journalism is afraid that journalism is somehow going to go away or things are going to die off but I don’t see public radio dying off anytime soon; I see it adapting and changing as we change,” she said.

She credits two veteran journalists, Rashida Jones, president of MSNBC, and Kimberly Godwin, president of ABC News, for inspiring her.

“I interviewed them last year and the takeaway from the whole thing was just 'dream bigger' and so that’s been at the forefront of my mind since August,” said Lyons.

“You can do it all if you want to — there’s just so much you can do in this field and that’s the really cool part is that no two days are ever the same.”

Jennie joined WUWF in 2018 as digital content producer and reporter.