Montie Montgomery ’19 graduated from Hillsdale with a degree in politics. He is a producer for Our American Stories.
What do you do at Our American Stories?
It’s a nationally-syndicated, long-form storytelling radio show on around 330+ stations. I essentially make radio documentaries and they’re highly produced. My job as a producer is to make them sound nice. I put music under, and add effects, all that stuff. I’m interviewing people, as well, and traveling. So I’ve been doing that for two years now. Life after graduation in general has been a lot of learning on the fly, how to adult and how to do things they don’t teach you in college.
What was your Hillsdale experience like?
My experience at Hillsdale was generally pretty good. I was involved in Young Americans for Liberty, in Phi Mu Alpha as their outreach guy that basically got to come to rush events and stuff like that. I was obviously involved in Radio Free Hillsdale. I was the production director and I had my own show there called “The Spin Room.”
What drew you to radio and broadcast journalism in general?
When I was in high school, I essentially only listened to one band and people would make fun of me because of it. The band was Oasis. I decided that in order to never have people make fun of me again for having very basic music taste, I would listen to a ton of records, critically-acclaimed records, and then have some sense of knowledge about music. So I started listening to a ton of music and really got into indie rock and a lot of up-and-coming bands. I figured it’d be fun for me in college to do a music review show and get involved in college radio. Radio Free Hillsdale had a lot of political talk on at the time. I figured it’d be fun to do something a little bit more artsy, a little bit more music-based, and a little bit more hipster.
What kind of work are you doing at Our American Stories?
Ultimately, it’s a ground-up operation on my end from interviews to the actual final product. Step by step, I reach out, I do research, and I interview people about topics pertaining to history, sports, faith, business, personal stories of people. I’ll find people who have interesting stories about any of those topics and get them to come on the show. The bulk of my job is cutting up the audio into radio hour blocks. OAS is a two hour, sometimes three hour long show, depending on which market you’re in. And so, I have to take two hours of audio from interviews and cut it down to somewhere between 10 and 40 minutes. I think my education at Hillsdale really helped me because it’s a liberal-arts education and your knowledge really spans a decent amount of range and you can make decisions better because of that. Then the fun part of my job is I get the score, I get to put in FX, and I get to work with making it sound like a movie on air. That takes a lot of artistic skill and a mind for music.
What do you like about the artistic side of broadcast journalism?
I’ve always been into music and I just have a desire to do anything that’s involved with music. When you have a piece in front of you, it is your job as the producer in my mind to bring out the emotions of the piece. Every voice is different and every piece or production deserves something different. A lot goes into it, but you’re essentially painting the piece, you’re providing color to it, and that’s why I like it.
What are some of the most interesting stories you’ve done with Our American Stories?
The most interesting one I’ve done was about the father of a medal of honor recipient who fought and died in Iraq trying to save one of his buddies on a mountain. It was the best interview I’ve ever had in my entire life and there wasn’t a dry eye in the studio. But it can be anything from that to onion rings. I interviewed another Hillsdale grad who goes around the country and reviews onion rings on the side. I run the gauntlet, really.
What do you think storytelling tells us about humanity?
Storytelling has been an art that is as old as time, even before people started recording things, and I think it’s such an important part of human history. It’s so different with radio because a lot of talk radio is so angry. It’s people speaking to the choir and we’re not doing that. We’re not looking for perfection. We’re looking for a story. Somebody who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get national media attention, such as someone talking about their grandmother, can be on our show just as much as a famous historian. It allows histories — local histories — to be preserved that are interesting to a broader audience. I think it’s important and it’s doing a service, not only to guests to have recorded histories down, but also to our listeners to understand the fabric of America and the people who make us up.