Guest speakers bring expertise to cherubs

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Roxana Saberi answers students’ questions in a Q&A session. Photo by Marc Chappelle.

Roxana Saberi was imprisoned while reporting in Iran in 2009.

Saberi, along with several other journalism professionals, discussed topics and specialities beyond the journalism basics covered in regular lectures at the Medill cherub program.

“They all have their own niche and that’s pretty cool because you get to see that journalism is more wholesome than just this one single type of person,” Avni Prasad said.


Kim Barker signs copies of her book “The Taliban Shuffle.” Photo by Victoria Radke.

Medill alumna Kim Barker, the inspiration for Tina Fey’s character in the movie “Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot,” talked about her time in the limelight. She also opened up about what it was like to be a foreign correspondent in the Middle East.

“Kim Barker did a really good job of relating to us because we definitely appreciated the dry sense of humor,” Marc Chappelle said. “The way she used humor helped us take in all the lessons she had to teach and all the lessons she had to share because it could be a really dark topic, but she made something light of it.”

Saberi spoke about being a reporter abroad, what it was like to be held captive in Iran and how she moved on from the traumatic experience to continue in the field of journalism.

“The way Roxana spoke about her experiences was really impressive,” Lila Bromberg said. “The courage that she had to be stuck in jail and still end up writing and publishing her book showed how much courage you have to have as a journalist.”

Saberi’s talk was inspiring because she tried to shed light on certain issues like the state of prisons and the misuse of power even after her difficult experiences, Bromberg said.

Highlighting first-person journalism, Medill alumna and author Hope Edelman discussed the process of writing her book “Motherless Daughters,” a book inspired by the loss of her mother as a child and her journey growing up without a mom. Her talk showed cherubs a more personal side of journalism, Chappelle said.

“She brought a lot of raw, emotional human content to our program,” Chappelle said. “A lot of times journalism can be super analytical and dry, but in this case it was about something more universal and more touching.”

Guest speakers also exposed cherubs to more traditional, hard-hitting journalism. Chicago Tribune reporter and two-time Pulitzer prize winner Patricia Callahan, a Medill alumna, shared her experiences working as an investigative journalist, focusing on her award-winning project on baby product safety.

Callahan’s presentation was inspirational, Sammi Handler said. Callahan demonstrated that journalists still care more about revealing the truth than earning a byline and that there is still room for investigative journalism in the newsroom.

Medill Professor Alec Klein spoke to students about the Medill Justice Project — the investigative reporting initiative he runs — and its mission to reveal the truth in criminal justice stories.

“I didn’t know the work that went into it until that lecture,” Handler said. “Afterward, I got more interested in it, and I think it’s a good way for me to potentially combine my interests of law and journalism.”

John White presents his work to cherubs. Photo by Paige Fishman.

Photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner John White shared some of his own pictures which included images of Muhammad Ali, Michelle and Barack Obama, and the Mother Theresa. White urged students to use their cameras to “be the eyes of the world.”

“My camera is my universal passport to capturing life,” White said in his talk.

Other speakers included ESPN commentator Mike Wilbon on his career in sports journalism, Medill Professor Randy Hlavac on the relevance of social media in journalism and  Medill Professor Susan Mango Curtis on design techniques.

Students like Jane Gormley said opportunities to meet and interact with professional journalists are an important part of the program.

“We have the lectures and the academic part of it, but journalism is so hands on and something you need to experience,” Gormley said. “Having the opportunity to talk to people who are living it or have lived it is really powerful and something we can’t get anywhere else.”