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  • Jun 17, 2021
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  • Meet Neon Hum’s New Associate Editor Stephanie Serrano

In March 2020, Neon Hum Media, in partnership with SME, launched its free Editors’ Bootcamp, created for aspiring podcast editors from underrepresented groups. Led by Executive Editor Catherine Saint Louis, the 8-week course was designed to provide a new and unique opportunity for Black and Native American storytellers, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community and Latinx people. From over 250 applications, 8 aspiring editors were selected to participate in the Bootcamp, learning from leaders across the podcast industry. With the course’s conclusion, one participant, Stephanie Serrano, was offered a staff editor position at Neon Hum. 

Stephanie, who begins her new role as Associate Editor on June 21, joined Catherine Saint Louis to discuss her experience working in audio, the lasting impact of the Bootcamp and her visions for her future work as an editor: 

Catherine Saint Louis: Our inaugural Editors’ Bootcamp happened during a pandemic, so our classes were on Zoom. Eight participants, myself and co-teachers like Emanuele Berry from This American Life and Annie Aviles from Vice met twice a week. That meant anyone in the U.S. could participate – not just folks in L.A. or Brooklyn. Where do you hail from? 
Stephanie: I’m from Reno, Nevada. I was born and raised here and went to the University of Nevada, Reno. When I saw the Bootcamp opportunity, my first thought was this is going to be amazing because participants will have the chance to be around people they would have otherwise never met. I figured let me take this shot. And if I miss OK, but if not, I could hit this three pointer and change the game. 

CSL: You not only got into Bootcamp, you’re Neon Hum’s new associate editor. You’ll be going to table reads, helping outline podcasts, give notes on scripts and scratches. What are you most excited about?
Stephanie: I’m so excited to dive deep into brainstorming and structuring stories. I can’t wait to work with talented people who inspire me and who I can inspire back in order to produce the best work possible.  I can already feel that Neon Hum’s culture is a supportive one so I know I’ll have the opportunity to grow. All of it is super exciting. It’s a dream to be in a space like this where everyone on the team is rooting for one another. 

CSL: Part of what drew me to being a story editor was not having to leave parts of myself at the door. What parts of yourself are looking forward to bringing to your work at Neon Hum? 
Stephanie: I’m a Latina. And I always say I’m not biracial but I’m definitely bicultural. I was raised in a traditional Spanish-speaking Mexican home and grew up influenced by America’s culture. It’ll be important to bring the perspective of a hardworking first-generation person into our storytelling. I’m bilingual and there’s nothing like being able to connect with someone in their native language where they feel most comfortable. It’s powerful.

CSL: Before Bootcamp, what was standing in the way of you becoming an editor?
Stephanie: This is the first time I found the confidence to say, Oh, I can be an editor. I came into Bootcamp very vulnerable, asking myself, Did I have the skills to actually make this happen? I guess what was standing in my way was the industry itself. So many people told me that you have to earn your stripes before you can be an editor. People say you have to be a reporter for this amount of years before you can even think about being an editor, or you have to be dedicated for this amount of years to even be in a leadership role. Because of Bootcamp, now I realize I do have all of these skills. 

CSL: As you know, I don’t think you need to wait for your first gray hair before you edit. I think people can build their editorial muscles and their story instincts. Editors aren’t born. They’re made. You’re an award-winning producer who has worked in public radio for years, have you ever had a person of color edit you? 
Stephanie: I have mentors who are people of color but professionally I’ve only been edited by a person of color once. 

CSL: How did you break into the audio industry?
Stephanie: I was introduced to audio through NPR’s Next Generation Radio Bootcamp, which is designated for aspiring journalists of color in college. Public radio’s very white and there aren’t enough people telling the stories of people of color who are people of color.

CSL: And we started this Bootcamp because there aren’t enough podcast editors, but definitely not enough editors from underrepresented backgrounds. The best part of Bootcamp for me was seeing how much each of you learned from each other. Learning requires little failures so you get what you don’t know. It’s vulnerable. It’s messy. What do you think you’ll always remember from these eight weeks of training?  
Stephanie: The people in this cohort, we’re all so individually incredible and coming together for this journey, I think humbled everyone. I was inspired by everyone. We had an eagerness to learn from each other and because we had such different perspectives and opinions. We led with vulnerability and I think that created respect for one another. We were eager to learn and I appreciated that because during a pandemic, during a time when things feel hopeless, it was nice to turn to a group who share similar aspirations to change the industry. 

**Funding for the bootcamp is made possible by Sony Music Entertainment, Neon Hum Media’s joint venture partner. To learn more about Sony Music’s commitment to supporting communities globally and locally, click here.

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