Careers often begin when students are inspired by college courses. But in the United States, many journalists learn things that will help their later careers through an extracurricular activity: reporting campus news for their schools’ newspapers, radio stations or websites.
Each year the Society of Professional Journalists recognizes the best work by school-aged journalists around the country. ShareAmerica spoke with several of those recognized this year to find out more about the stories they report. Here are a few favorites:
Making readers think
Gaby Morera’s profile of a senior at Lehigh University who donated a portion of her liver to a teenager with a rare genetic disorder is still the most-read article on the school paper’s website, even though it was published in October 2016.
“Good journalism,” said Morera, the paper’s editor-in-chief, “is about finding these stories, but it’s also about finding the correct way to tell them.” She is drawn to stories that make readers think about experiences they likely have never encountered.
Justin Sullivan writes for the school newspaper at the College at Brockport, State University of New York. “I’d like to become an investigative reporter at some point in my life,” he said. His award-winning piece about pay inequality between adjunct professors, who teach part time, and their full-time faculty counterparts exposed an issue that affects higher education generally.
Sullivan also covers news for Brockport’s radio station. “I’m not paid, but the experience is priceless,” he said.
Sarah Sharp spent the summer between her junior and senior years at Western Washington University interning at a local Washington state newspaper. Among the stories she wrote there was one about volunteer amateur radio enthusiasts who helped keep communication open during the deadliest landslide in U.S. history in Oso, Washington, in 2014.
Sharp said her work on both her college newspaper and her internship made her aware that in the age of online newspapers and social media, effective journalists have to work visually as well as with words. “I think writing is still at the heart of what we do and it always will be, but you need a lot more skills now,” she said.
If you want to study journalism — or any other subject — in the United States, visit EducationUSA to plan your studies.
In his classes at American University in Washington, Bill Gentile prepares his students for a kind of journalism that would have been impossible when he was coming up.
Gentile, a veteran reporter and documentary filmmaker, directs the Backpack Journalism Project at American University, which focuses on “emerging techniques and technologies for visual storytellers.” Using small digital cameras or even just a smartphone, journalists can tell stories with a level of sophistication that would have required a four-person film crew 20 years ago.
Visual storytelling, says Gentile, “is the new language. And if students can’t understand and speak this language, then they’re going to be a couple of steps behind. I can do the things that 20 years ago four people were doing. And that’s largely the result of technology.”