Where are they now? Cherub alumni talk about their Medill summer experiences

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Cherubs working in 1958. Courtesy of Deering Library Archives.

Every summer since 1934, students have come from all over the world to attend the Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute. Here, four alumni talk about their experience at the Medill cherub program.

 

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Helaine Fendelman, a 1958 cherub. Courtesy of Helaine Fendelman.

 Helaine Fendelman, 1958

Where is she now? Helaine Fendelman is now an appraiser. She has written 14 books and is working on another. She has also written the “What’s it worth?” column for the Country Living Magazine for more than 30 years. She was previously a junior high school English teacher, a copy editor at Simon & Schuster and then a museum curator. Fendelman is also the grandmother of Sammy Norrito, a 2016 cherub.

How has the journalism cherub program helped you get to where you are today?

“I still use the way of writing that I learned at cherubs. I learned a way of thinking and writing that has influenced my work throughout the years. As someone who was interested in writing, cherubs was definitely the place to go.”

What lessons did you learn at the program?

“I learned about the 5 W’s and the H and how important they are in writing. I learned to make sure that what I write is clear, precise, and exactly what I mean. And revision, revision, revision. Editing is so important. Cherubs also prepared me for college. I had never really been away from home for that long, meeting new people, new challenges. And I had that at cherubs. It also taught me to read both sides of the story. Especially in today’s political climate, it’s so important to see both sides of the question. You don’t have to agree, just understand both sides. Then you will really be able to question and expand your knowledge.”

What’s your best memory from cherubs?

1958 cherub group photo. Photo from Deering Library Archives

The 1958 cherub group photo. Courtesy of Deering Library Archives.

“Walking along the lake. But most of all, I remember the friendships I developed and the comfort that the camp gave me.”

Are you still in contact with anyone?

“About 20 or 25 years ago, one of my instructors, Boris Weintraub, was writing for the Washington Star in Washington, D.C., when the paper went under. I wrote to him asking if he was the same Boris Weintraub who taught at cherubs, and he wrote back, ‘I’m no longer the same person, but that’s my name, and I was an instructor at cherubs.’ Later, when my son was in D.C., he lived with Boris and Boris’s wife.”

 

Brad Snyder, 1989 cherub.

Brad Snyder, a 1989 cherub. Courtesy of Brad Snyder.

Brad Snyder, 1989

Where is he now? Brad Snyder covered Duke basketball for The Washington Post while at Duke. He had various summer internships including one at the St. Petersburg Times. Out of college, Snyder worked at The Baltimore Sun covering baseball and other news. At the Baltimore Sun, covering a Supreme Court argument prompted him to attend law school to become a Supreme Court correspondent. After law school he clerked for a federal judge, worked at a law firm and then decided to become a law professor. Snyder now teaches at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

How has the journalism cherub program helped you get to where you are today?

“Cherubs changed my life. I would’ve never gone into journalism as a profession if I hadn’t gone to cherubs, seeing people like (Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune columnist) Clarence Page. And the counselors too were all really amazing people working or going into journalism. My formative years as a young professional were spent as a journalist, and the training I got as a journalist I still use today. The fact-checking, analyzing the facts and turning them into a story are all things I use to write books or law review articles.”

What lessons did you learn at the program?

“What I really remember is ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’ I’m editing my most recent book right now, and I have to fact-check every single name. Cherubs taught me how important attention to detail is. It also taught me a level of professionalism. I thought I was so good on my high school newspaper, and then I got to cherubs and I realized I wasn’t a good writer. That’s something it taught me. I was a pretty bad writer at 17 years old.”

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The 1989 cherub group photo. Courtesy of Roger Boye.

What’s your best memory from the program?

“I have so many. One of the most memorable moments was going to see Clarence Page at the Chicago Tribune. We toured the Chicago Tribune, and I had never been inside a real newsroom like that.”

Are you still in contact with anyone from the program?

“It’s been 27 years since the program, and I’m still in touch with people. Actually I was just in L.A. and saw a former cherub there. I’ve been to my cherub friends’ weddings and everything. I also see cherub bylines all the time.”

 

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Callie Schweitzer, a 2006 cherub. Courtesy of Callie Schweitzer.

Callie Schweitzer, 2006

Where is she now? Schweitzer is the Editorial Director of Audience Strategy for Time Inc. and the founder of Motto at Time. Her work has appeared in Time magazine, The New York Times, Mashable, The Huffington Post and People magazine. She has previously worked as the Director of Marketing and Communications at Vox Media and the Deputy Publisher of Talking Points Memo. In 2015, she was named to AdWeek’s list of Future Publishers, and she made the Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2012 and 2013. Time has named her Twitter feed one of the world’s best.

How has the Medill cherub program helped you get to where you are today?

2006 cherubs.

The 2006 cherub group photo. Courtesy of Roger Boye.

“I have kept in touch with many of my fellow cherubs and cherub instructors. Cynthia Wang put in a good word for me at People when I applied for an internship the summer after cherubs, and who would’ve guessed I’d be back at Time Inc. 10 years later running audience growth and launching Motto, a new brand within Time?”

What’s your best memory from the program?

“I put this (quote from instructor Bret Begun) on my Facebook profile in the summer of 2006, and it’s been there for the last 10 years: Volunteer for the crap jobs and do them with a smile. Eventually someone will say, ‘Why is that little shit always smiling?'”

 

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Nolan Feeney, a 2008 cherub. Courtesy of Nolan Feeney.

Nolan Feeney, 2008

Where is he now? Feeney is a staff writer at Entertainment Weekly. He has also worked as a reporter for Time magazine, and his work has appeared in The Atlantic and Forbes Magazine.

How has the journalism cherub program helped you get to where you are today?

“It definitely showed me all the different possible careers you could have in journalism, and I’m sure that helped me through the first half of Medill, where they really train you to be a breaking news reporter.”

What lessons did you learn at the program?

“When I first got to cherubs, I wasn’t sure if journalism was for me — I had a hard time with some of the news writing assignments at first. But I remember going to Cynthia Wang’s magazine journalism classes/workshops and feeling like my whole world opened up. It definitely inspired me to want to work in magazines and pursue my interest in culture writing and reporting.”

What’s your best memory from the program?

2008 cherub group photo.

The 2008 cherub group photo. Courtesy of Roger Boye.

“Weirdly, I think a lot my favorite cherub memories involve eating. Some of my friends and I used to have ‘cake parties’ where we would just buy a cake from Whole Foods and eat in the dorms together with no special occasion in mind. The trips to Joy Yee (restaurant) also stand out. I think it was just really nice to have so much freedom to hang out with a lot of like-minded people.”

Are you still in contact with anyone from the program?

“I can’t say I’ve really used the network for job purposes, but I do keep in touch with a bunch of my fellow cherubs. I just got dinner with one the other day, actually.”