The Megaphone Project: Letting small voices be heard

With the goal of “letting small voices be heard”, a group of Texas State University undergraduate students has teamed up with SJMC lecturer Holly Wise to create The Megaphone. This online publication was created as part of the undergraduate multimedia journalism elective course, and serves as a voice for local groups looking to bring about social change in the community.

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The Megaphone team members – photo by The Megaphone

Holly Wise, photo by VoiceBoxMedia

Holly Wise – photo by Voicebox Media

Though Wise spearheads the operation, she believes the students are the true stars of the show. Her goal is to facilitate the project, and guide the students in the right direction. And she certainly knows a thing or two about managing an online publication; Wise is also the founder of Voicebox Media, a group that uses multimedia journalism to tell the stories of nongovernmental organizations.

“She [Wise] gives us the tools, but we have to figure the rest out on our own,” Stephie Figueroa, senior electronic media major, said.

In the class’ first meeting, the students were given the task of choosing a direction for their publication. They had to decide on their project’s theme, identify their audience, come up with a name and design a logo. With the slogan “letting small voices be heard”, The Megaphone aims to highlight groups and organizations in the Austin and San Marcos area that are doing great things for others and for their community.

Lorenzo Almanza, senior print journalism major, explained that working with The Megaphone is like working for any news outlet.

“It’s like a newsroom scenario,” Almanza explained, “where we are all collaborating and pitching our ideas to one another.”

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Students pitch their project ideas to their peers and their leader, Holly Wise.

The students meet on Tuesday nights to share ideas for potential feature stories or footage for the website, update one another on the status of their individual projects, and measure the reach of their content. Ally Garcia, senior public relations major, explained that the students are learning key real-world communication skills such as measuring analytics and search engine optimization.

“It’s definitely important to see consumer behavior through Google Analytics, and see how they interact with our content,” she said. “It’s really opened my eyes.”

Brie East, explained that working on The Megaphone has helped her explore new mass media platforms and channels.

“[The Megaphone] is definitely pushing me out of my comfort zone,” said East. “I’m learning more about audio and visual production, and expanding my knowledge of the Adobe applications. It’s a big job.”

Perhaps the most interesting multimedia journalism project the Megaphone students have worked on this semester is “the bug story”. Pitched by Jax Stafford, the story and its accompanying video support Austin local Robert Nathan Allen’s push for Americans to consider insects as a cost-effective and sustainable alternative protein source. In order to better communicate the story, the staff ate the insects and filmed their experiences.

“It was fun, but it was scary,” Mackenzie Steger, senior public relations major, said of the bug-eating experience. “I was mad I volunteered, but I just had to do it because everybody else did. The experience was very eye-opening. They really didn’t taste that bad.”

Wise explained that this project was well received by The Megaphone’s audience and social media following, and that the team should continue to produce content in similar, attention-grabbing ways by incorporating photos, videos and other interactive content.

Describing the semester-long project as “collaboration across the board”, Wise guides each Tuesday night class by promoting discussion and highlighting each individual’s talents.

“It’s not so much about the final project, but the entire process of the project,” she said. “Each student is working toward producing stories, but we are involving everyone in the entire process. The collaboration is truly across the board in this project, because I don’t know everything. I like to make sure each student is exercising what he or she is good at.”

Be sure to connect with The Megaphone on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to learn more about groups and individuals that are making a difference in the community, and to support these hard-working mass communication students in their efforts to gain invaluable experience in the field.

Story by Cheyenne Meyer

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