Come in with one skill, leave with many

Cam Medrano (left) and Emma Suttell prepare for a broadcast segment. Photo by Carlin McCarthy

The Medill-Northwestern Journalism Institute welcomes rising high school seniors with experience in print, broadcast, radio or digital journalism. Most cherubs enter the program with experience in one of these fields, but they leave with experience in all of them.

Most assignments require writing, but cherubs also attend classes, clubs and workshops to pursue their interests in video, audio and digital storytelling.

“I don’t have access to audio or broadcast at home,” said Martha Lewand of Scotch Plains, New Jersey. “I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity here. Before you specialize in one area, you have to be well-rounded in the basics.”

Students have access to high-quality equipment to record and edit video and audio pieces. The equipment includes Canon DSLR cameras, Zoom H4n Pro recorders and the Adobe Premiere software.

Despite having no experience in broadcast, Sarah Effress of San Diego, California, decided to anchor for broadcast club because she likes presenting PowerPoints at school. After this experience, she gained a new appreciation for broadcast journalists.

“It’s a lot easier to do the research for print because you’re not relying on the visual aspect,” Effress said. “With video journalism, there’s the constant urge to take more videos than you need. It’s more challenging to know when you have the right shots because you can’t really edit on the spot when you’re taking videos for broadcast.”

Effress said the broadcast skills she learned will help her become a more concise writer.

“With broadcast, you have such a short amount of time to get a certain amount of information out,” Effress said. “If you have experience writing for broadcast, you’re a lot more attuned to picking the most relevant information for print and keeping your audience entertained.”

While Effress enjoyed being on screen, Sophie Boyce of Traverse City, Michigan, was drawn to podcasting. She said audio journalism is an easy way to consume the news because you can listen to it while doing other things.

“It’s nice to be able to hear what you’re talking about,” Boyce said. “I worked on a music podcast and got to get clips of cherubs playing music and singing. That makes the story a lot better than if you were just writing about it.”

Although most cherubs came from a print background, a few specialized in broadcast at their high schools.

Makayla Boxley of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, had written for her school paper only three times but was an anchor and executive director of her school’s broadcast. She said the writing assignments helped her improve.

“Rotating rewrites was helpful because the headlines for our show are essentially all ledes,” Boxley said. “When we are telling the news, you want to talk about the things that impact the most people. That big-picture idea is something I’ll definitely bring back to help me know which stories to run and how to approach those interviews and stories.”

Exploring different types of journalism helps cherubs become well-rounded journalists with multiple ways to tell stories.

“They taught us here that the best thing you can do for yourself as a journalist is to be versatile,” Boxley said. “I’m working on graphics for the website right now. You don’t think of that as journalism, but it is. My takeaway from this program is not to restrict myself to just one thing.”