Young Voices, Clamoring for a Microphone

Youngsters simply can't resist running up to a microphone for their shot at fame, even if it delays the work of a reporter.

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JOHN YDSTIE, host:

NPR education reporter Larry Abramson spends a lot of time talking to students. And sometimes he finds they're just a bit too enthusiastic. Here's his Reporter's Notebook.

LARRY ABRAMSON: This happens all the time when I go into schools to do a story. I'd come to Adams Elementary School in Washington, D.C., to talk to kids about a conflict resolution program they use to avoid fights over playground games. Instead, I got this.

(Soundbite of children playing)

ABRAMSON: The games of four square and soccer I'd come to observe came to a halt. Suddenly, I was committing the cardinal sin they always warn you about on "Star Trek" - don't interfere with the cultures you've come to observe. The girls put on their best Britney attitudes.

Unidentified Girl #1: Hello, I can hear you. Okay, hear this. Hi, Jennifer.

JENNIFER: What's up?

Unidentified Girl #1: What's up? What's up? What's up? (unintelligible)

Unidentified Girl #2: Boo.

ABRAMSON: And one boy tried to sneak in a sales pitch.

Unidentified Boy: So (unintelligible).

ABRAMSON: You're a professional?

Unidentified Boy: I'm an artist.

ABRAMSON: You're an artist. What kind of artist are you?

Unidentified Girl #3: No, you're not.

Unidentified Boy: Yeah. You. Somebody bought my art for $50(ph). Somebody bought my art for a million dollars. Ha.

ABRAMSON: Teachers and principals who were men and women begin to quiver when they see the mic. They asked me to turn my machine off so they can collect their thoughts. Kids are brash, self-promotional and sometimes a little too honest.

Unidentified Girl #3: I saw one coach Chris(ph) it out. Larry, except that he's talking about Larry King.

ABRAMSON: No. No. I'm sorry to disappoint you now.

Sure, it's funny but it's also really annoying. I only had one hour of recess and I needed these kids to play a game, get into an argument and then use the conflict resolution technique they learned so I could get the sound for my piece.

Time was running out so I broke a rule. I offered something of a value to one of my most persistent pursuers.

Unidentified Boy: And then (unintelligible)

ABRAMSON: Yeah. But if you just stand there and talk to me then I won't be able to do my story.

Unidentified Boy: But if my team wins, would you interview me?

ABRAMSON: Yes. If your team wins, I'll interview you. How's that?

Unidentified Boy: Okay.

ABRAMSON: Somewhere in the NPR ethics handbook, I think they warned you not to do this. But I was desperate, and in the end, these kids just wanted something in exchange for the story they were providing me. I eventually got what I wanted and the kids got their message out. Fair deal, right?

Unidentified Boy: I was going to be in TV?

ABRAMSON: Maybe.

Unidentified Boy: Oh, yeah. What channel?

ABRAMSON: On the radio. I'm going to call and tell your teachers. I'll tell you when it's going to be on, okay?

Unidentified Boy: Okay. (unintelligible).

YDSTIE: NPR's Larry Abramson.

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