By: Joe Strupp
Kristin Butler, Duke University
When Kristin Butler started at Duke four years ago, she was a bio-medical engineering major aiming to be a research scientist. “That was going to be my career path,” the 22-year-old says. But then, “I became pretty involved in the paper. I didn’t think it would be as life-changing as it was.”
In May, Butler graduated with a degree in English and a concentration in journalism after being a weekly columnist at The Chronicle, the campus daily. She remains unsure where she wants to work. “I am looking to diversify, I’m on the fence,” she says, although she wants to start at a small paper. “There is something about a newspaper that still pulls ? you are still out there pounding the pavement. When you sit back and think about what the best entry point would be, that would be the way to go.” For her, “a small paper would be the perfect starting experience,” she adds.
Butler grew up in Youngstown and Cleveland, and has fond memories of reading The Plain Dealer or The Vindicator on the kitchen table. “Every morning, I recall opening those papers,” she says.
Without a journalism major, Butler could seek only a journalism certification. “I had never taken a journalism class, so I took the plunge,” she says of her efforts to join the Chronicle two years ago. “That learning curve is extremely steep.”
But Butler had the experience of covering the Duke Lacrosse case, which began in March 2006 with accusations against three players that were eventually found to be false. “My dorm was right next to the media frenzy,” she recalls. “I got to watch it unfold. There was a big blog subculture that arose around the case. It was a tremendous experience going to meetings and writing about it.” She also followed the re-election of Durham, N.C., County District Attorney Mike Nifong, and his eventual disbarment.
Jenna Marina, University of Florida
For Jenna Marina, a 21-year-old sportswriter at The Independent Florida Alligator, the student newspaper of the University of Florida, covering a major nearby story has given her a taste of the big time. She was the paper’s beat writer for the Florida men’s basketball team, which won the national championship in 2006 and 2007. She also served as a stringer for The Tampa Tribune. “I like being on a beat,” she says.
Marina sees a newspaper as her best inroad to the business, but acknowledges how important the online component is. “I am probably going to do newspapers,” she says, noting that she has an internship this summer at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “A lot of people say [newspapering] is going totally online and I agree with that ? video, audio, and people talking on the Web. But I think there is always going to be a hard-copy newspaper. There is always something you want to save, cut it out and keep it.”
Like many of her fellow students, Marina laments the lack of real multimedia education, even for journalism majors. “I think the U.F. and the paper are just starting to put more effort into technology,” she says. “There might have been one course you could take in the curriculum.”
Carrie Ritchie, Indiana University
“There are a lot of [multimedia] classes available, but they are not required,” says Carrie Ritchie, editor of the Indiana Daily Student at Indiana University and a journalism major. “We need that kind of multimedia training. That really helps build our resume.”
Ritchie, a senior, adds, “I hope to be a reporter for a daily newspaper. Writing for a print medium is something I have always enjoyed.” What’s more, she’s not afraid of the medium’s future: “Because newspapers are in the state they’re in, it will be an interesting place to work.”
Despite the curriculum limitations, Ritchie and her staff have taken charge on the Web in the past year or so, increasing their number of podcasts to four per week, along with at least one or two weekly video packages online and audio components as often as possible. “I went to the staff and the students and challenged them to come up with their ideas,” she recalls. “They really latched on to it.” Ritchie credits much of her online interest to an internship she had at the St. Petersburg Times in the summer of 2007.
She also drew some national attention in January when a former Bush Administration deputy national security advisor, Meghan O’Sullivan, planned to speak at the campus but demanded that her talk be off the record. Ritchie publicly declined the agreement, prompting student leaders to cancel the event. “To me, there was no logic to what they were doing,” she said at the time. “The media can cover public events.”
Stu Woo, Brown University
Stu Woo, a senior at Brown and a staffer at the Brown Daily Herald since 2004, says he has had to go a less digital route given that his paper’s site is “adapting slowly.” And since the school has only two journalism classes, gaining experience has been a challenge.
Undaunted, he seeks a print newspaper career. “I am kind of old-school, and I read all of the local papers,” says the San Francisco native, who recalls growing up with the Chronicle as a family tradition. “I am hoping that the print system will still be viable,” he notes, “but I know the Web is the only way newspapers are going to survive.” An intern at The Providence (R.I.) Journal last summer, Woo contends he got the best training as a police/local events reporter there. “I still feel that newspapers have more of an influence,” he contends. “I think all of this has prepared me well to get up, make calls, and learn the structure that is required.”
Chris Sharron, Kent State University
Chris Sharron is among those college journalists seeking a less-traveled news road: editorial cartoonist. A sophomore at Kent State University majoring in art education, Sharron, 20, has been at the Daily Kent Stater for more than a year.
“I didn’t start to get involved in keeping up with the news until I began drawing for the paper,” he says. “I am not someone who feels very comfortable with writing, but I have always been drawn to visual.” Like his writing counterparts, Sharron also strives for a more digital approach, and plans to study animation this summer: “Ideally, I would be able to find a couple of different avenues and have a Web presence. The art form is what’s important to me.”
Although Sharron has been able to improve his artistic skills via the classroom, he says he’s learning the editorial side better at the paper: “Finding out reactions to [my work] and having a deadline help.”
Jenna Bromberg, Cornell University
Then there’s Jenna Bromberg, a senior at Cornell University and sex columnist at the Cornell Daily Sun. In recent years, more college papers have added sex columnists to their pages and Web sites, drawing a mix of complaints about offensive material and praise for honest and direct discussions. “The responses have been very polarizing,” says Bromberg, 21, who launched the column last fall. “They are either die-hard fans, or they hate me.”
Unlike even some of the most controversial mainstream advice and sex columns, Bromberg’s pieces use frank, raw language to describe some of the most hard-core sexual acts and issues. “I utilize the language I do to grab the frat boys, and I have more male than female fans,” she says. But she believes that such frank language is needed to truly connect. “You establish a sense of intimacy with your readers,” she contends. “College is about making mistakes and growing up. More people have had terribly awkward [sexual] experiences.”
A hotel-administration major, Bromberg says she hopes to use her unusual column and other freelance work to land a job in “hospitality media,” as she puts it, perhaps a high-end or lifestyle publication. Bromberg admits she has sent mostly non-sex column clips and some of her “tamer” sex columns with resum?s.
“It’s like going in to be a serious actress after starting out in pornography,” she says. As for the social fallout, Bromberg admits when men realize she is the campus sex columnist, “they go straight for your pants, or straight for the door.”