When Radio Latijam airs on Friday evenings, Carrboro’s WCOM-FM studio is usually frenzied and hectic, the room packed with teenagers and young 20-somethings making spur-of-the-moment decisions before air time.
By comparison, the studio is almost empty lately.
Radio Latijam is a radio program broadcast completely in Spanish and tailored to local Latino youth, who in previous years have produced the show in collaboration with students from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Yet a lack of resources this school semester has hindered the recruitment of Latino teenagers, leaving UNC-CH students to manage the show on their own.
“We do not have the resources to recruit this year – both money and time,” says Lucila Vargas, a UNC-CH journalism and mass communication professor and the director of the university’s Latino Journalism and Media project.
Simone Duval, a senior journalism and Latin American studies double-major from Shaker Heights, Ohio, who helps to produce Radio Latijam, also identifies recruitment as the program’s main hindrance.
“This semester, we have six UNC students committed to the show, but our biggest challenge is getting area high school Latino students involved,” explains Duval. “The program places a huge emphasis on the empowerment of Latino students, and usually they’re the ones running the show, interviewing the guests and composing voice of Radio Latijam . . . Radio Latijam gives them an outlet through which they can have a dialogue with the community about who they are and where they’re going as a people and as an integral part of Carrboro and Chapel Hill.”
Despite this setback, the Radio Latijam program still airs every Friday from 5-6 p.m., led by Vargas and Ryan Comfort, a masters student in UNC-CH’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
The show has partnered with Raleigh’s Spanish language weekly newspaper Qué Pasa to publish portions of Radio Latijam’s interviews, says Stephanie Lopez, a senior journalism major at UNC-CH and a member of the Radio Latijam production team.
This partnership will create more diffusion and publicity for the show and the topics it discusses, explains Vargas. The students refer Radio Latijam listeners to Qué Pasa after every interview.
Radio Latijam keeps its integrity as a source for relevant Latino culture, news and interests by enlisting predominately Latino students from UNC-CH to produce the show while also earning a service-learning credit in Vargas’ course on Latino media studies.
The students select songs to play on air, interview prominent Latino community members and cover local news pertinent to Latino youth.
Duval says that she chose to participate in the program as a way to connect with the local Latino population.
“I decided to get involved in Radio Latijam because it offered me a chance to not only connect Spanish with journalism, but also to get to know the larger Latino community within Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” says Duval.
She has immersed herself in Latino culture ever since high school in Ohio, volunteering with an ESL program before taking a gap year to attend an Ecuadorian high school while simultaneously teaching English. After her gap year, she enrolled at UNC-CH and participated in an APPLES service-learning project concerning Latino issues and migrant farmworkers in North Carolina, led an evaluation of a micro-insurance NGO research project in Peru and interned with the Public Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Ecuador last summer.
Although Radio Latijam has suffered from the current absence of any Latino teenagers, Duval remains optimistic that the program will overcome its slow start and that its lagging recruitment will pay off soon.
“We miss working with them and having their thoughts and opinions drive the program,” says Duval. “But, we’re currently working on recruiting students from the high schools in the area, and hopefully we’ll be working with students in the next month.”