Guest speakers offer advice and tips for aspiring journalists

Erin Ailworth: ‘Covering Breaking News and Disasters’

Erin Ailworth, Lois and a few cherubs. Photo by Joe Grimm

Accompanied by her dog, Lois Lane, Erin Ailworth from The Wall Street Journal spoke to cherubs about her career as a correspondent covering natural disasters and breaking news. Throughout her talk, Ailworth emphasized that for journalists to report well, they must use their social network.

“When parachuting into a breaking news situation, ask yourself who do you already know,” Ailworth said.

Erin followed this advice when she reported on wildfires in her family’s town. Ailworth reminded students to report using empathy.

“Keep your heart ahead of your head,” Ailworth said.

After her lecture, many were given the opportunity to look at Ailworth’s box of supplies for covering emergencies and to pet Lois.

Abigail Zhao, a cherub from Shanghai, said, “I admire Erin for being able to tell us her tough experiences with such an optimistic and cheerful attitude.”

Tim Franklin: ‘To Do and Not to Do as EIC’

Photo courtesy of Tim Franklin

Senior Associate Dean and Professor Tim Franklin discussed the do’s and don’ts of editing a newspaper. For many cherubs, this lecture proved useful because they are rising editors of their high school publications. Franklin told them to never shy away from a controversial story. He also said never to denounce someone unless there are facts to support it.

As for what to do in the situation of not knowing whether to publish a controversial story, Franklin had this advice: “Follow your gut.”

Susan Mango Curtis: ‘Design for the Digital Storyteller’

Photo courtesy of Susan Mango Curtis

Many cherubs are in charge of designing their school publications. Professor Mango Curtis offered her insight in her “Design for the Digital Storyteller” lecture. She offered key points on what the design process may look like.

One point was, “To be an effective designer, one must have the creative drive to look beyond the first solution.”

Talia Abrahamson, a cherub from Los Angeles, said, “I am thankful for the resources that Professor Mango gave us. I downloaded Adobe Capture, which Professor Mango told us about, and sent it to a potential illustrator for our school publication.”

At the end of her presentation, Mango Curtis provided everyone with a copy of her presentation for reference.

Jonathan Eig: ‘Ali: A Life’

Student showing copy of “Ali: A Life.” Photo by Alex Perry

Journalist and author Jonathan Eig explained the process of writing, “Ali: A Life,” the latest biography of Muhammed Ali. Eig highlighted the perseverance it took for him to get interviews.

Angie Chung of Seoul, Korea, said, “It inspired me because I realized that getting a degree in journalism can provide you different paths, like becoming an author.”

Students learned Eig’s top pieces of advice, which included following their curiosity when reporting and considering career choices, and to give themselves permission to fail or try something new.


Pamela Bannos: ‘Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife’

Author and Northwestern professor Pamela Bannos spoke about her biography, “Vivian Maier: A Photographer’s Life and Afterlife.” Professor Bannos discussed the process she took to compile Vivian Maier’s photographs and to map out Maier’s life as a distinguished street photographer, as a Chicago nanny and as a world traveler.

Cherub Emma Rosenbaum of Bedford, New Hampshire, said she is thankful that Professor Bannos did the painstaking, detailed research to do justice to the life of someone as accomplished as Vivian Maier. That research combated the sometimes misleading or sensationalized newspaper headlines that ran on stories about Maier, Rosenbaum said. Maier became internationally famous and her photographs critically acclaimed only after her death in 2009.

Stephanie Zimmermann: ‘Developing an Investigative Mindset’

Head shot of Stephanie Zimmermann
Photo by Jenna Braunstein

“Look with fresh eyes,” said Stephanie Zimmermann, an investigative reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times. 

Zimmermann told cherubs how to find and tackle investigative stories. Nicknamed “The Fixer” because of her ability to give light to pressing issues, Zimmermann shared several stories, including why several BMWs were catching fire and how a helicopter ambulance company scammed patients.

Brynn Winkler of Prairie Village, Kansas, said, “I realized how just a weird phenomenon that’s going on can be the result of a bigger problem that needs to be investigated.” 

Gabe Fuentes: ‘Free Press vs. Fair Trial’

Photo courtesy of The Chicago Bar Foundation

Former cherub and current magistrate Judge Gabe Fuentes presented a workshop on the free press and fair trial. Fuentes told students about the legal issues they may come across as journalists. 

“Remember, press is there to report, not participate,” read one of Fuente’s points. “You don’t have to answer judge questions.” 

Although several cherubs said they have not encountered legal issues in their own high school publications, the workshop proved helpful because it prepared them for what they may come across as journalists.

John White: ‘Fly Above the Clouds’

John White discusses photojournalism with students. Photo by Jenna Anderson

“Being a journalist allows you a front seat in history,” said John White, Photojournalist and Pulitzer Prize winner.

White showed his work, which includes pictures of Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. He explained that when he takes photos, he looks for feelings and a story, not just a picture. While showing his work, White reminded and encouraged everyone of their capabilities to pursue their dreams. The advice he gave was to have faith, focus and to stay in flight to achieve one’s dreams.

At the end of his presentation, White gave everyone a photo that captured a flying seagull crossing a vibrant rainbow and a pin with the words “Keep in flight.”

Julianne Sun of Brookfield, Wisconsin, said, “I thought that John’s lecture was really inspiring in that he turned professional journalism into an adventure with humanity instead of a job.”