Career Advice: How Can Student Journalists Help Local News?

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I attended a webinar from NPR affiliate KPCC and the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism titled “The Future of Local News” in August 2020. It was the first of a three-part series connecting journalists with their communities to discuss the current crisis surrounding local news – particularly areas where coverage is barren, known as “news deserts” – and what can be done about it.

Panelists discussed several measures that could alleviate the problems facing local journalism. Then they moved on to the Q&A part, and fittingly, I was the last person to get their question answered. As someone who had experience with print and digital media in high school, I asked how student journalists could help local news.

Christina Bellantoni, Director of the Media Center at USC Annenberg, answered my question and gave me incredibly valuable advice that has stayed with me until today, as I now enter college. as a journalism major. Now I’m here to share his advice (and offer some of my own) with other students, explaining how it has helped me along my journey and how it could benefit others as well.

Get closer to your community

I’ve been doing this for years as a citizen journalist, interviewing people at local events and uploading the videos to YouTube. Recently, I decided to join my community’s Facebook page, which allowed me to connect more with others and share the stories I covered. By actively reporting on these events and sharing them on social media, I can accomplish my goal of telling stories that deserve to be heard.

Use social media to your advantage (and grow a following)

After Bellantoni talked about it, I knew I had to revamp my social media presence. After taking a break from Twitter, I finally decided to come back in December 2020. Instead of using it as a personal platform, it became a way to build my brand as a journalist – something all young reporters should do. I started promoting my articles and podcast episodes, engaging with people thousands of miles away. Growing my social media presence (and being mindful of what I post or “like”) is another example of how I’ve connected with my audience and developed a following that will hopefully last for years to come. .

Enter a journal and ask for experience.

I haven’t been able to for various reasons, but I really see the value in reaching out to newspapers for opportunities. Everyone says the best way to learn is to do it, so going to your local paper and showing you want to help is the best way to do it.

Another way to do this is to search for internships. Doing an internship at a newspaper (or any publication) – paid or unpaid – is incredibly rewarding and something I wish I had pursued this summer. Fortunately, colleges expect you to complete multiple internships over your four years, so there will be a plethora of opportunities to reach out and learn from the professionals.

Show your interest and passions

I was able to follow this advice to the end. In addition to my sports writing and high school shows, I often write about Medium and, in addition to my own blog, I’m on three sports-related publications. It allowed me to expand my audience and work in a newspaper-like environment, with editors reviewing and publishing my work. Additionally, I was able to earn “Top Writer” accolades in sports and the NBA, as well as develop a relationship with my readers, editors, and fellow writers. It’s crucial to show your passion in any medium – print, audio or visual journalism.

Developing such a portfolio at a young age will do wonders in the future.

My advice to fellow student journalists

Although journalism still faces a crisis, the advice given by professionals like Bellantoni is a valuable resource for us, the next generation of reporters. I’d like to suggest some other ways you can help local news:

  • Learn about the history and ethics of journalism. Ever since I knew I wanted to be a journalist at age seven, I’ve gotten my hands on a variety of material related to industry history books, articles…you name it. Engaging with all of these resources has given me a better understanding of the field in which I aspire to be a part, and it has also taught me the values ​​and standards that must be upheld when it comes to effective reporting. .
  • Connect with professionals in every way possible. Whether through social media or at in-person events, I have found that reaching out to journalists has been one of the best strategies adopted on this journey. The journalists I have met have been nothing but kind to me, and I know that, if needed, I can contact them at any time for opportunities or further advice. If you can pair up with a journalist to be your mentor, even better.
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