Welcome to Journalist’s Workshop: real world experience inside the classroom

By Joshua Svetz @svetz17

Tucked away in the John J. Murphy Professional building is a small room with yellow brick walls and several tables making a circle. On Thursday nights, this little room comes alive, when a handful of students enter with big ideas.

Welcome to JMC 410 Journalist’s Workshop where upperclassmen journalism majors get the unique opportunity to work with former Dorf Feature Service editor Anne Lee and Buffalo News features writer Tim O’Shei.

Recently added to the required JMC curriculum, this class gives students two drastically different opportunities:  On Thursdays, students report for O’Shei’s “Live starring … You” website, which gives them the opportunity to attend and write about concert and sporting events. On Tuesdays, in Murphy 104 – better known as The Mac Lab — students gather with Lee for an online, community news publication called “The Convergence,” reporting on events and people in the area surrounding St. Bonaventure.

The students get the opportunity to network with a wide range of people. From interviewing interesting locals in Western New York to well-known professionals in the news, sports, entertainment, and music industries, all facets of journalism are explored in this course. The class runs in a similar fashion to a newsroom because the professor checks in on the students’ stories and gives feedback and guidance to each of them. The students have the opportunity to pursue their interests while also building a portfolio and learning the ins and outs of journalism in the real world.

Lee, who used to edit regionalized feature sections in New Jersey, said she encourages student journalists to “look for your next story in the contact you just made. If you go to Allegany and there’s a street fair, and you see three different artists with different artwork, take a card, call them later and do a story on them. Always be looking for a story.”

The two instructors offer students opportunities to cover important local events, to interview politicians, musicians, writers and many more. Exposure is the key to this class as young journalists get opportunities that are not usually present outside of internships.

Senior journalism major Mitch Skrabacz recalled going to cover concerts with a classmate. “We were able to get VIP and media passes to do a [Foster the People] concert review,” he said. “We also got an interview with AER [rap group]. It was interesting to talk to famous people.”

In addition to the opportunities presented, students share their experiences in the classroom  and genuinely help each other as they reflect on their interviews, stories and experiences. “It’s rewarding to watch these students grow and learn from each other’s experiences,” remarked O’Shei.

Another interesting thing about the program is that it gives student-athletes and students involved in other time-consuming programs such as ROTC a chance to gain experience and add to their portfolios. Skrabacz has experience with this because he is a student-athlete currently playing soccer for the Bonnies. “I can’t be heavily involved [with clubs], so I haven’t had that much experience, whereas in the class you have to do stories for the class which added to my portfolio.”

With all that in mind, the goal of the class remains the same: become a great journalist.

“It’s a very challenging course, but it’s very rewarding,” said senior JMC major Jalen Taylor. “You’re going to work. There’s going to be a lot of responsibility on you, and a lot of things will be expected of you. But if you make an effort and do what you’re supposed to do, then it’s going to be a good experience for you.”

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