In an effort to provide volunteers with professional journalism training, CIVL Radio’s latest project is combining workshops and speaker events to create “Radio Mini School.”
The five-month-long program comes as part of a $50,000 grant that CIVL Radio received from the Community Radio Fund of Canada (CRFC), which made it possible for CIVL to hire three staff to coordinate the program, and even pay volunteers for work they produce.
“It’s called the CIVL Radio Mini School and we are creating a series of workshops and events around building capacity for students and community members in the area to do radio storytelling and radio journalism,” explained Gordon Katic, the project coordinator and one of the staff members hired as part of the grant.
The project is split into two components: three sets of workshops with industry professionals after which volunteers will work with CIVL staff to use their newly-learned skills to create radio pieces, and a speaker series where volunteers can showcase their completed projects.
“Right now we’re in the process of booking some professional journalists to come in from all over the country and some from the United States,” Katic explained. “[Students] are getting the best education that you can get in terms of radio storytelling.”
Along with booking some of the industry’s best as speakers, the grant also allows CIVL to offer compensation between $250-500 for students who complete the training and produce a radio piece, which CIVL Radio station manager Aaron Levy describes as “more like a one-off podcast.”
“We are paying volunteers to learn about radio production from professionals in the field,” explained Levy. “We have hired staff to work with them on producing pieces that we will then air on CIVL and then we will showcase them at speaker events where we will hire professional and high quality speakers for public speaking engagements.”
Part of the reasoning behind offering compensation to volunteers was to hopefully attract a more diverse variety of contributors.
“It’s vital to give people that space, not everyone can just afford to do these projects on a lark and people have jobs and people have lives,” Katic said. “I think in community radio and these creative industries we tend to see a certain class of people represented because this is an issue and people need to put food on the table. That’s why the project made priority of a substantial amount of budget going to volunteers.”
In the grant proposal, CIVL committed to focusing the projects on members of minority communities including First Nations (including residential school survivors), immigrants to Canada, members of the Punjabi community, the elderly, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and environmental advocates.
“There’s an emphasis on that in the grant and we’re hoping to see those kinds of stories told,” Katic explained. “If you’ve always been wondering what are LGBTQ students on UFV caring about and you haven’t made it out to an event and spoken to a lot of the groups, here’s an opportunity to do that and get paid for it.”
The project was initially inspired during the early planning stages of the Fraser Valley Music Awards in 2015, which CIVL also received a grant for. Levy was required to ask the CIVL board of directors for approval to apply for a grant and board member and UFV geography professor Jonathan Hughes suggested that a grant be put together to bring speakers to Abbotsford.
“The next grant round that came up, that was what I focused on,” Levy said. “I focused on that concept that he had and it turned into a speaker series, and feeding into that speaker series is going to be a series where we pay volunteers to learn skills to make productions and have professional journalists come and work with our volunteers to help them put together better pieces.”
The first installment of the workshop series is this Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. in room A229 on UFV’s Abbotsford campus and will feature CBC’s Angela Sterritt and Garth Mullins, with the rest of the project scheduled to occur over the next five months.