History major learns podcasting at R2Studios

Hands-On History: Rachel B. Birch Becomes a Podcaster at R2Studios

History major learns podcasting at R2Studios

Where was your internship and how did you find it?

I completed a podcast assignment for one of my courses and Jeanette Patrick, head of R2Studios, asked to listen to my episode. After working on the Religious Ecologies Project in the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media (RRCHNM) for approximately a year, Ms. Patrick asked if I was interested in an internship at R2Studios. Because of my limited experience in podcast creation and an interest in public history, I accepted the offer of an internship for Fall Semester 2023.

What were your main responsibilities on the job?

I have been tasked with several projects over the course of my internship at R2Studios. The Studio produces four active podcast shows. I have had an opportunity to work on elements of all of the podcasts. In Your Most Obedient and Humble Servant, I have been updating, editing, and checking past episode transcripts for accuracy and clarity. For The Green Tunnel, I have had the opportunity to write the script for an “Iconic Locations” episode. This included archival work, interviewing experts in the community, collaboration with Dr. Mills Kelly, and drafting a script. For Worlds Turned Upside Down, I have been able to sit at table readings to assist in collaborative editing. For Anti-Semitism, USA, I researched some questions to clarify concepts in one of the scripts. Lastly, and what I am most excited about, is being able to take part in virtual training sessions to learn Adobe Auditions. This software is an in-depth training on how to edit and compile audio to create a cohesive file for publication on audio outlets. 

What were the most rewarding aspects of your internship? 

By far the most rewarding part of this internship was collaborating with the staff at R2Studios and working with faculty members at RRCHNM. The collective expertise, experience, and knowledge was an invaluable resource for learning, skill development, and experience. I am a better scholar and technician because of the mentorship I have received.

What was your biggest accomplishment?

I have a lot to be proud of in association with my internship with R2Studios. This is a really hard question. The task that took the most time was updating the transcripts for Humble Servant. While the episodes were really fun to listen to, the show notes were left incomplete for thirty-nine episodes. It took time to listen to the episodes, clean up the source page, curate mini biographies of each guest, and then polish the transcript. The polishing took time because the transcription program’s interpretation of the audio from the podcasts were not accurate. Because of the gap between what was actually said and the transcript, I had to conduct some creative research to make the transcripts both accurate and historically viable.

The internship project I am most proud of is writing a script for the podcast, The Green Tunnel. This process really challenged my writing abilities, and I was really appreciative of the mentorship from the faculty and staff at RRCHNM.

What did your internship teach you about being a professional historian? 

This internship has enhanced my skills as a professional historian. While I gained additional archive research experience, I had the opportunity to learn from historians who specialized on various time periods and subjects. My ability to think differently was a highlight of my time at R2Studio. I sat in an interview with a scholar of African American history. This historian discussed the range of emotions an enslaved person feels while living on a plantation. This idea of ranges of experiences really broadened my perspective and thinking patterns. Additionally, I learned skills that will improve my abilities as a public historian, so that I can continue to research difficult topics and communicate them to non- specialists to further democratize history.

Did anything surprise you?

The one thing that really did surprise me is the methodology for researching a podcast script. Preparing to write a script is similar to the process of researching a historical scholarly article. The difference between writing a scholarly article and crafting a podcast script is gearing the ideas to a specific audience. Depending on the show, the host, and the audience, scripts have to be able to communicate content and atmosphere. In historical podcasts, the message has to be interesting, informative, and auditorily layered in order to engage listeners for the length of the show. This is all done under the assumption that your listener knows almost nothing about your topic. While this process seems relatively straight forward, it takes forethought, skill, and talent. I am still working on it and learning!

Is there anything else you would like to share about your internship experience?

I don’t think there is anything else I would like to add, though I do recommend this internship. The work at R2Studios helps students collaborate with professionals as well as improve their writing skills.