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.”

St. Bonaventure mourns the loss of recent graduate

Ashley Sandau [Photo courtesy of laist.com]

By Joe Pinter, Assistant News Editor, @jpinter93

ST. BONAVENTURE (April 9) — At 10:25 pm on March 30, a vehicle struck Ashley Sandau while crossing the street. She later died of her injuries at the hospital. 

The tragic accident took the soon-to-be St. Bonaventure University integrated marketing communications graduate’s life while in the company of her father in Silver Lake, California where she had eaten dinner just minutes before.

Sandau, 24, graduated with a journalism and mass communication degree in 2010 but returned to St. Bonaventure to finish her master’s degree in integrated marketing communications in 2011. She had been working as a marketing coordinator at United Consortium in Los Angeles. 

“Ashley came to SBU from Germany where her mother was teaching in a department of defense school for American students of military families,” former cross country coach Tom Hagen, said. “Ashley ran cross country over there. She was a great student while in Germany and a very solid runner.  She knew what she wanted and worked to make it happen.”

Sandau’s mother also had ties to the Olean area, and Hagen said he believes she grew up near Ripley, PA.

While writing and social media were her passions, she also ran cross country at Bonaventure.

Denny Wilkins, professor of journalism and mass communication, said she was one of the leaders every year she ran and her teammates looked up to her.

“She was highly regarded in athletics because she provided leadership on her team, and she was also involved in the student athletic advisory group,” Wilkins, who was also her adviser, said. “Her interests were varied, but she was one of these people that are easy to like.”

Both Hagen and current cross country coach Bob Macfarlane know how much Sandau meant to the team. Both coaches raved about her work ethic and, among other things, her likeable personality.  

“She was the captain of the team for the last two and a half years,” Hagen said. “She had the leadership aura about her, and the team loved her. The student athletes on the cross country team and in the school did look up to her.”  

Hagen also spoke about how she was always a good representative of the women’s team, and how she was mature and very professional in both her athletics and academics.

“Words seem inadequate to express the sadness the cross country team feels about Ashley’s death,” Macfarlane said. “I know the former runners that knew Ashley are deeply sorry to hear about her death. They lost a great friend and a wonderful person.  I know for certain that we never lose the people we love, even to death.  They continue to participate in every act, thought and decision we make.  Their love leaves an indelible imprint in our memories.  We find comfort in knowing that our lives have been enriched by having shared their love.”  

Wilkins said she will be dearly missed by everyone who was fortunate enough to have her in their lives.

“The young should not die,” Wilkins said. “To me, personally, it’s an incomprehensible loss. I can’t imagine what her parents are going through, or what her boyfriend is going through.”

According to Wilkins, the one trait that stood out far and above everything else was her modesty.

“She was humble,” Wilkins said. “I mean this was a kid who graduated cum laude. She’s a brilliant mind. She knew it, but she was never someone to push it in your face. She was always self-effacing. She went about her business, and she didn’t seek credit where it wasn’t due. She’s really one of the best writers I ever coached here.”

What Hagen will most remember her for is her motivation and her leadership. He said Sandau simply had a drive and no matter what it was, she gave her full effort. She also never let her coach or her teammates down, offering to host a team dinner when Hagen could not.

“I could show up at the Richter Center on any afternoon, and she would be there on the elliptical or doing some other exercise to stay in shape,” Hagen said. “Also, when I was not able to get back for the team dinner for the start of the 2009 season, she stepped up and helped host it in her townhouse. She was just a good captain.”

Sandau became very close with Wilkins and Hagen, staying in touch over the years.

 “She took four courses from me, and even after she finished her undergraduate degree and started her graduate work, she was in my office every two or three weeks, so I spoke with her regularly,” Wilkins said.” And after she left last May and went to California, I still talked with her several times by phone.”

While Ashley won’t be able to finish her masters, she will never be forgotten, especially in the halls of the John J. Murphy Professional Building.

“Sooner or later, I will have the picture of her that ran on gobonnies.com,” he said. He then pointed to a blank space on the wall in his office and said, “I’m going to have it framed, and it’s going right there. I am going to make sure that Ashley Sandau is not forgotten in this journalism program.