GV student interviews well known radio personality for WGVU podcast


Courtesy: Emily Lynn Seymour

Amanda Rogers

Grand Valley State University student Jane Johnston was given the chance to interview investigative journalist Renee Montagne on Feb. 15 for her podcast “Be the Change.” 

Johnston was looking for ways to engage with the campus community to talk about the work they are doing on and off campus and how they are engaging in democratic engagement. She decided that the best way to do this was to create her “Be the Change” podcast for GVSU’s Community Service Learning Center.

So far, Johnston has released three episodes and her latest episode features her interview with Montagne. 

Montagne is an investigative journalist for National Public Radio (NPR) and is one of the best-known names in public radio. She also co-hosted “Morning Edition,” NPR’s weekday morning news program, from 2004 to 2016. Johnston is a Democracy Fellow and multimedia journalism major, so their topic of conversation was related to the relationship between journalism and civic engagement.

“She is really an interesting person because her experiences working with community radio and within democratic processes, not only in the United States but abroad, are very wide spread and very interesting,” Johnston said. 

Johnston was nervous going into the interview because Montagne is a celebrity figure, but Montagne ended up being very open to answering all of her questions and Johnston eventually felt comfortable around her.

“When Montagne was in college she was an English major, and I wanted to focus on how her experiences in the classroom translated to this passion that she has for radio,” Johnston said. “I focused a lot of my research and my interview about how students can map their career, not just with what they studied in school, but with other passions they have outside of the classroom.”

Johnston said that once she started chatting with Montagne she realized how her experiences as a journalist really correlated with these broad deeds of democratic and community engagement that she was trying to fit in with the focus of her podcast. 

Assistant Professor of Multimedia Journalism Eric Harvey offered up Johnston’s podcast and assisted in setting up the interview with Montagne.

“Jane was an exceptional student in both classes (she took with me) and I trusted her with this level of responsibility,” Harvey said. 

As a professor, he always looks for opportunities to get students out of the classroom and doing the kind of work that they could be doing as a professional. He said that this was a great opportunity for Johnston because she was given the chance to do reporting and interviewing at a professional level.

“(Montagne) is one of the most well known radio personalities and she has had such a successful career as a journalist, a host and a public personality,” Johnston said. “I think that the opportunity to sit down with her for an hour was a dream come true.”