Cherubs feel newfound confidence in writing skills

Olivia Cohen (left), Victoria Lei and Zack Cherkas work on their articles in the Fisk hallway.

Five weeks of classes, speakers, meetings and practice gave cherubs confidence in their writing and reporting abilities. Many cherubs came into the program thinking they were great writers, but quickly found they had a lot to learn and then worked hard to hone their new skills.

“Before I came to cherubs, I was very scared of interviewing strangers and pushing myself to cover challenging topics,” said Olivia Cohen of Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “Now, I don’t find those challenges so daunting, and I want to encourage myself to continue practicing what I learned when I get home.”

Cohen used to write chronologically, include every detail and was inconsistent in her use of attribution and AP Style. After working with her instructor and writing in different styles, she said her articles were more concise and clear. Now she says not every detail needs to be included to get the news across.

Many cherubs came in approaching their stories like English papers, not putting the most important information at the beginning, instructor Tania Karas said. When cherubs had to interview strangers on the street, many were freaked out, but now it’s like second nature, she said.

“I’m really proud of the cherubs I’ve gotten to teach because their writing has improved so much,” Karas said. “I think with each new class that we’ve taken, the cherubs have learned so fast and improvement is immediate every single time.”

After interviewing strangers and writing feature stories, articles don’t seem daunting anymore, said Anne Pritikin of Mill Valley, California. Her first articles were verbose and had long sentences, she said.

“I’ve learned to be more tenacious and improve my interview skills, so I feel comfortable talking to strangers and approaching random people on the street,” Pritikin said. “I learned how to ask more appropriate questions on the spot and follow-up questions during interviews, so even if I’m not prepared I can still get an adequate interview.”

Going to classes and lectures helped Matt Chilson from Mocksville, North Carolina, improve his stories, but he said he really learned from writing articles. Going out and reporting on real things that matter gave him a real-world experience, he said.

Seeing the success and knowledge of the cherubs instructors made AJ Shaheen from Petaluma, California, feel like journalism is a viable career option. He now identifies himself as a journalist.

“Before I came into this, I don’t even think I knew what journalism was, but now I’ve gone through a metamorphosis. I’m the caterpillar and Fisk 217 is my cocoon,” Shaheen said. “With each lecture, I feel like I’ve been incredibly inspired. I feel like I can make a difference.”