Student Podcasting: A New Spin On Journalism

The “Straight from the Mustang’s Mouth” podcast brings entertaining content to Brick Memorial High School. (Photo courtesy Joseph Stefanelli)

  BRICK – “Straight from the Mustang’s Mouth,” a student-led podcast, has given young journalists the opportunity to expand their creativity.

  With a goal to amplify the voices of students at Brick Memorial High School, English teacher and Podcast Advisor Joseph Stefanelli created the podcast in 2023 to grab more attention on the growingly unpopular student newspaper.

  “I was asked to take over the school newspaper over the summer of 2022, and I was hesitant but I agreed. I had also just been asked to take over the journalism class – which I had very little experience in. However, I am in charge of our website, as I do all the press releases. I’ve been doing that for about a year or two. So, they asked me to teach journalism. Then came the newspaper and I decided to do that digitally instead of going through with printing them. I realized after about two months in, an average of 15 kids were reading the newspaper,” Stefanelli said. “I went to the principal and asked if I could try something different. Fortunately, I am trusted there and they gave me the go ahead to try something new. So, I put together a podcast.”

  Stefanelli has experience with podcasts as he records his own along with his sister. He recorded the very first episode for Straight From the Mustang’s Mouth in February 2023 and has now made over 100 episodes.

  “In the beginning, it was just me really, and the kids still worked on the newspaper. The first 20 to 30 episodes it’s just me interviewing kids, teachers. Then the kids really wanted to be a part of it, they were a little jealous,” Stefanelli joked. “We developed about 200 to 300 followers and we get about 100 to 200 listens per episode which I think is great for a school podcast. When there’s a story to tell, we do a podcast.”

  Stefanelli’s “staff” consists of about 30 students who do anything from research to editing, as well as a few who are the talent. The extra-curriculum activity has grown so much, the group is now crafting a studio and are in the process of foaming a classroom to make it sound proof.

  “I am an amateur, but I’m learning, they’re learning and it’s been a lot of fun,” Stefanelli said.

  Some of the podcast’s topics includes their Teacher Spotlight, were they interview a new teacher weekly.

The podcast is an expansion of the high school’s newspaper. (Photo courtesy Joseph Stefanelli)

  Student Riley Kindler produced a series of episodes of “Hot Takes.” Each episode included two students, who have since graduated, and debate back and forth on a “hot take.”

  “One of the funniest episodes they recorded was ‘I hate the color yellow.’ and they would argue over the stupidest things, but it was hysterical,” Stefanelli shared.

  Another student, Sophie Daley, produced “Am I In The Wrong?” These episodes were based off of popular podcasts of people reading real world scenarios and judging whether they’re right or wrong. Sophie’s episodes would have students anonymously write in stories, then share them in “man on the street” interviews – asking if the person is in the wrong.

  One podcast episode that really stood out to Stefanelli was a special episode they recorded for Suicide Prevention Month. The episode included an interview with a student who lost his friend in the 7th grade from suicide. Students also interviewed several guidance counselors to discuss the topic.

  “I’m shocked how many kids were not shy about it. That’s what amazes me. I’m shocked how many want to be involved. Sometimes they’ll bring me their own recording and I’m shocked of the amount of research,” Stefanelli said. “This is the next frontier; not even the next one since it’s been around for years, but it’s grown in such popularity. I know kids are listening to podcasts. Even I can say I listen to podcasts more than I watch or read the news.”

Students have been expanding their communications studies through podcasting. (Photo courtesy Joseph Stefanelli)

  Stefanelli expressed how proud he is of his students and the hard work they put into the continuously growing podcast.

  “The truth is without them, I don’t know if it would still be going,” Stefanelli said. “Even after a year, it can be exhausting. There is not a day where not one of them comes to me and goes ‘what do you need me to do next’ or ‘should I be going out to find the next story.’ They’re just a great group of kids, and they’re taking a risk, they’re really putting themselves out there. And that’s what makes me proud.”

  “Right now, our school is really enjoying it. We haven’t had a single piece of negative feedback. It’s really been a positive experience,” Stefanelli added.

  You can check out the Straight from the Mustang’s Mouth podcast at: