Cherubs choose to collaborate, not compete

Cherubs (from left) Martha Lewand, Larry Ding, Ike Bryant and Ava Seccuro work on an assignment. Photo by Aden Morvice

When Danielle Bennett of Roseville, California, arrived at Northwestern University, she worried about the other cherubs. She expected everyone to be “smart and talented,” coming from competitive schools and working hard to build their own journalism skills. While it is true that they worked hard to  build skills, a cooperative experience prevailed and surprised.

“Everyone was more focused on building each other up,” Bennett said. “If someone needed help spelling a name correctly for a story, everyone was willing to chip in and help. Everyone was proud when someone else would get published. It was a lot of cherubs supporting cherubs, and I appreciated that.”

Throughout the five weeks, cherubs collaborated on assignments. They helped each other find ideas and sources for the feature story. The Fourth of July assignment and the lede writing class also inspired group support.

The trend story in particular fostered the shared experience of locating sources and helping each other with references to websites, phone numbers and potential experts.

“Our classmates here are going to be sources for the rest of our lives, and we’ve started early,” said Annie Rubinson of Irvington, New York. “For the entire week and a half that we were working, our group chat was flooded with messages of ‘Does anyone know someone who can talk to me about X?’ It was this big echo chamber of support.”

The culture of collaboration began on the first day and continued throughout the program, from the roommate interview to the Web Week articles on the last days. This cooperation stems from mutual respect as well as admiration for a community of young journalists.

Jude Herwitz of New York City said this collaboration will continue beyond the cherub program. He plans to “tap into that network.”

“We want to help each other and see each other succeed,” Herwitz said. “One person succeeding helps you. It doesn’t hurt you. We are all in this together.”

Rubinson said, “It’s just nice to know that even weeks or months after this program is finished, I am going to be able to give any one of my classmates a call. They’ll think back on this shared experience and help each other out, which is special.”