Alums give advice for covering parade

Evanston residents celebrate during the Fourth of July Parade. Photo by Penelope Zhang

Walking miles to interview people at the Fourth of July parade is a cherub tradition.

Cherub alum Scarlet Li recalled covering the Evanston parade in 2017. Li went to the parade without an angle, but an idea came after she interviewed a woman whose uncle fought for freedom in the Vietnam War. The Fourth of July had a special meaning for that family.

“In my year, Trump just became president,” Li said. “The lady’s family was upset. I focused on Trump’s presidency, how the American ideal of freedom has changed and how people would value it even more because there is someone who might threaten it.”

Li said it was difficult to rearrange everything she talked about with interviewees. It took her two hours to write the transcript and find a focus. Reflecting on her experience, Li’s advice is to not be ambitious.

“Don’t try to fit a two-hour interview into a 500-word story,” Li said. “It’s a learning process. I don’t think it is necessary to prepare or think too much beforehand.”

Like Li, Sophia Saker did not prepare story ideas and experienced difficulty coming up with one on Central Street.

“You are with 85 other incredibly smart student journalists, and it is hard to have a unique idea,” said Saker, a cherub alum from the Class of 2018.

Saker wrote about people who were busy working during the paarade. Saker said it is important to cover the parade early in the program.

“It dives us right into where we need help journalistically with our writing,” Saker said. “As you continue with the program, you refine your skills and when you look back on this story, you can almost laugh. It’s been five weeks, and I changed so much.”

Her advice is to avoid fretting about needing an idea.

“You are not going to sit in Fisk Hall and have the idea pop into your head,” Saker said. “Once you venture out and immerse yourself in that parade, the idea will come.”

Community Associate Rachel Schonberger prepared several ideas before going to the parade when she was a cherub in 2017. She wrote about how immigrants in the U.S. celebrated the Fourth of July. Her biggest challenge came when she couldn’t get the name of an immigration lawyer who could tie her story together. Although this interview fell through, she spoke to more people and listened to their stories.

Schonberger also gave practical advice for future cherubs to help them survive at the parade.

“Stay hydrated,” Schonberger said. “A tradition here is that Roger will always tell you it is only a 15-minute walk to the parade, but it actually takes longer.”