Oxford History student Charlotte Moberly completed a three-week internship working on the RAI’s Last Best Hope podcast. She shares her experience below.
Over the summer, I was lucky enough to spend three weeks working with Adam Smith to create an episode of The Last Best Hope: Shorts for the RAI. When I saw the internship advertised, it seemed like the perfect way to combine my interests in American history and journalism. I’d never had the opportunity to work on a podcast, so I was really excited to learn more about the process behind making one.
The Last Best Hope: Shorts explores America through the stories of outsiders; individuals who encountered America in their lives and were in some way shaped by that experience. I spent the first couple of days of the internship researching possible people to focus on, looking at articles about different visitors and immigrants to America to come up with ideas. When I came across Simone de Beauvoir’s visit to America in 1947, I was struck by her vivid portrayal of the States, and her determination to explore as much of America as she could. I hadn’t previously realised that she had visited America, or that it ultimately helped to shape her writing of the feminist text The Second Sex.
I researched Beauvoir’s story in more detail, reading articles and extracts of her travelogue, America Day by Day. Beauvoir’s journey was a fascinating one, and one of the biggest challenges in scripting the podcast was selecting only a few key moments to focus on. I had never written for audio before, but I ended up really enjoying the process. Adam showed me some of the differences between writing for audio and for print, and how to tell a story for a non-specialist audience in an engaging style. We interspersed the narration with quotes from articles, letters and Beauvoir’s travelogue to help bring it to life and give a vivid sense of both Beauvoir’s impressions of America and Americans’ impressions of Beauvoir.
The pandemic meant I was working from home, so we had to be creative about recording. Adam posted me a microphone and we recorded remotely, with him directing my narration. We asked several student actors to voice Beauvoir and the characters she met. Finally, we found jazz music and sound effects to help provide a vivid background and evoke a sense of the world Beauvoir was moving through. Having collected the recordings together, I learnt to use Audacity to edit the recordings and put together a rough cut. I’d never used the program before, but I really enjoyed the process of drawing everything together to create a compelling podcast. With some final editing from Adam, the episode went live earlier this term.
I learnt so much during my internship, and it was great to be able to see my pitch through into a finished podcast - I had never imagined that I would have the chance to contribute to all the stages of the production process. To anyone else who gets the opportunity to work on The Last Best Hope: Shorts, I would say – go for it!