NPR Associate Producer/Alumna Heats Up the Air Waves at KBIA as a Hearst Visiting Professional

“Listening Lounge” Brings Radio to Life for Students

By Alexandra Rampy

Columbia, Mo. (Oct. 17, 2006) — “I just love these Cheetos! They make me go crazy!” a child squeals as his classmates’ laughter echo him.

“Your booty might get burned!” another child warned the narrator.

Jesse Baker, BJ '03
Jesse Baker, BJ ’03

These sound clips, which originally ran as part of a feature story about the flaming hot variety of this crunchy snack food being banned from elementary schools on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” are samples from Jesse Baker’s “listening lounge.” It’s how Baker, an associate producer at the network, brought radio stories to life for Broadcast I students at the Missouri School of Journalism.

“I play lots of pieces for students,” Baker said. “We dim the lights, play the pieces and talk about the use of sounds and how they can use sound in stories since sounds are our pictures for radio.”

Baker, BJ ’03, shared her enthusiasm, excitement and energy for radio journalism as a Hearst Visiting Professional earlier this semester. She highlighted creative ways to make stories more interesting while working with students at KBIA, one of the most successful NPR stations in the nation. Baker also anchored newscasts and hosted a weekly business show.

Baker became an integral part of the newsroom from her first day at KBIA, according to Sarah Ashworth, the station’s news director and an assistant professor.

“But I think her most lasting work has been as a role model for beginning broadcast students,” said Ashworth. “She has shown them that there is a career path open to them in radio journalism, and that it can be creative and challenging and really very cool. Jesse has brought this magnificent enthusiasm and respect for public radio to the students, and it’s so exciting to watch many of them have their first exposure to NPR and get hooked by even just one really good story.”

Baker enjoyed her role as NPR’s cheerleader. “If I inspired just one student to give radio a chance, then I will have done my job,” she said.

The idea for Baker’s visit originated during the summer of 2006, when Baker met with Ashworth. The two discussed how Baker could use her professional experience to help Missouri Journalism students create radio stories and learn more about career opportunities the medium offers. Shifts at KBIA allow radio-television journalism and convergence journalism students to learn basic broadcast skills before refining those skills while working in the newsroom at KOMU, mid-Missouri’s NBC affiliate.

“Their experience with KBIA will only prepare them better for the fast-paced environment at KOMU,” Baker said. “I worked with the Broadcast I students, playing bits of sound pieces that are things you wouldn’t peg to be on radio. I wanted to show them the wide array of topics our plethora of stories cover.”

Having a skilled professional like Baker share her talents with students is only one example of the Missouri School of Journalism’s tradition of innovation, said Kent Collins, associate professor and chair of the radio-television journalism emphasis area.

“Part of the magic of the journalism school is that we can make opportunities.” Collins said. “Ms. Baker wanted to experiment with some new technology to produce her stories, and KBIA News wanted to provide an increased level of editing expertise for students, so we created an opportunity to suit both of those interests.”


Alexandra Rampy, a senior from Overland Park, Kan., is an advertising major and business minor. She has interned at Muller + Company, a full-service advertising agency in Kansas City, Mo., and been involved in Rockin’ Against Multiple Sclerosis, the MU Student Foundation, Adelante! and Alpha Phi Fraternity. Rampy plans to study strategic communication in graduate school and one day would like to found a non-profit advertising agency.

Updated: April 28, 2020

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