Students spend summer learning from MPR legend

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September 18, 2014

By Mike Killeen

SJU student Jake Schultz and CSB student Mai Tong Yang take a break from their internships with MPR while working at Rock the Garden in Minneapolis.

About a week into her summer internship at Minnesota Public Radio (MPR), Mai Tong Yang had to practice how to interview for a story by calling a resident in St. Paul, MPR's home base.

The resident "challenged our views and questions during the interview — our very first interview," said Yang, a College of Saint Benedict junior political science major.

It turns out the resident from St. Paul was none other than Gary Eichten '69, MPR news editor-at-large, former host of the "Midday" show and namesake of the CSB/SJU Gary Eichten Fellowship.

"He (Eichten) patiently explained to all of us what we did well and what we could've improved on," Yang said. "For the rest of the summer, we had an inside joke about the St. Paul resident."

Both Yang and SJU junior English major Jake Schultz spent 10 weeks learning the ins and outs of producing news stories for MPR this summer. They each reported a four-minute news story to complete their internship.

"Gary is an extremely laid-back guy," Schultz said. "Even though he's retired, he's still a workhorse and that is something I respect immensely."

Schultz and Yang came at the fellowship from somewhat different perspectives. Schultz, who was the sports editor last spring of The Record, the student newspaper of CSB and SJU, wants to get into media following graduation. Yang started working for Media Services at CSB last year, and had no experience in radio.

"I love how MPR helps you learn how to write and produce for radio," Yang said.

They received mentoring not only from Eichten but from other reporters and editors at MPR. They were able to shadow reporters in the field, take video and photos and see how a newscast comes together - all down to the last second.

"One of my favorite things to do every day was to spend the last hour or so in the studio and watch the evening (news) show from the control booth," said Schultz, a graduate of Park Center (Minnesota) High School. "In radio, everything is down to the second and it turns out flawless most of the time, but there's so much work that goes on behind the scenes and I loved watching that."

"Something that really stuck with me is that time means everything in radio," said Yang, a graduate of St. Paul Harding High School who is originally from Thailand.

Both Yang and Schultz were happy to hear that the Eichten Fellowship has been extended from its initial three-year period. They encouraged other students to consider applying for the fellowship in 2015 and beyond.

"This was nothing but an amazing experience," Yang said. "You learn so many skills, and you get to go out and test them when the time comes. Not only do you attain new skills, but you get to meet so many people who stay connected with you even after the internship. I highly recommend everyone to apply if they have an interest in media.

"It's also great to hear your story on the radio," Yang said.

Schultz mentioned MPR's roots to SJU. Radio station KSJR (90.1 FM) signed on the air at SJU Jan. 22, 1967, and became Minnesota Public Radio on Jan. 1, 1975.

"CSB and SJU students should be excited by this because Minnesota Public Radio is one of the most successful news organizations out there, and they do it the right way," he said. "The people at MPR are just like those at CSB and SJU; they create a community that makes you feel like you're at home and I think that's why they are so successful.

"No matter what field you want to get into, MPR teaches things that are helpful for everyone. Writing straight to the point and understanding how media works is valuable for every job. Not to mention Gary is an incredible guy that everyone should get to know.

"What always amazed me was how much he (Eichten) thanked me for doing the fellowship," Schultz continued. "I felt like I was the lucky one to have the opportunity, but he always made it seem like I was doing him a favor. That was always neat. Hearing him say he was proud of what I was doing was really special."