Students take a trip to Voice of America

The security was as tight as an airport.

“Please remove your electronics and metallic items from your pockets,” a security guard said as students filed into a building in Washington.

Students present a newscast that would later be given by Frances Alonzo.
(From L to R) Sarah Wu, Malcolm Anderson, Matt Barrier, Alexa Bennett and Ruth Milburn.

On a Friday in late June, students from the National Student Leadership Conference  Journalism & Mass Communication section visited the Voice of America, the government-run broadcasting organization.

Ana Hontz Ward, the tour guide, led students to the VOA room, which contained a small stage with a few rows of chairs for visitors. Frances Alonzo, a multimedia reporter, explained that Voice of America includes television and radio and web units. Content is delivered in 43 languages.

Alonzo noted the abundance of women in the student group, adding that there aren’t many women in the industry right now.

She asked for five volunteers, and I raised my hand along with four other students.  When we reached the stage, we were each given a piece of paper, which we later learned was part of Alonzo’s broadcast script at 10am that day.  She instructed us to, after she tapped each of our shoulders, to begin reading and stop after two paragraphs.  Part of this read “Pakistan’s ruling party has nominated another controversial figure to replace outsted Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, as the country copes with a political crisis.”

Ward continued with the tour. At the time, there were two radio broadcasts underway — one was in English and one in a language that no one in the group seemed to recognized.  We were not allowed to enter the rooms, but Ward did turn a knob that looked like a light switch in order to have us listen in on the audio.

Ward pointed out newsrooms, recording rooms, and rooms that had tangles of wires hooked up to some fancy looking machines that an ordinary passerby would assume is some futuristic technology.

The tour began the way it ended — with technology.