Monday, May 11, 2015

Student Journalists Mentored in a World Class Newsroom

By Vanna Garcia

The New York Times’ annual student editors’ workshop took place this year on Thursday, April 16, and I was pleased to attend on behalf of The Ramapo News, the Ramapo College student-run publication.

The event included a complimentary day of learning from editors and reporters at the Times, which was put on by Kathleen O’Connell, the national education director, who specializes in higher education.

O’Connell spoke on the Times’ ability to reach out to college students of all backgrounds in order to cultivate a growing diverse pool of student journalists. Naturally, as a first generation LGBT college woman of color pursuing a journalism degree, I was delighted to hear this.

The event featured guest lectures by Associate Managing Editor Marc Lacey, who gave us the inside scoop on working for the newspaper giant; Associate Editor Richard Jones, who spoke on editing; Business Correspondent Barry Meier, who lectured on investigative reporting; Senior Staff Editor for Digital Projects Emily Rueb, who educated us on web journalism; and Editorial Page Editor Andrew Rosenthal, who taught us about Op-Ed reporting.

Of all the wonderfully talented speakers, I was most captivated by Rosenthal, who I was able to relate to the most being that I oversee the opinion column in our very own campus publication.  

Rosenthal spoke on the backlash he faces when writing about controversial topics.

Opinion writing can be politically or socially charged; and it can be especially challenging when writing about certain issues. Still, Rosenthal spoke on the significance of writing to challenge the status quo. He said that rather than allow themselves and others to become indoctrinated by systemic beliefs, journalists should reflect on and challenge values that may or may not coincide with dominant institutional forces.

This certainly hit home for me.

My feminist critiques of institutional forces that promote systemic oppression for historically disenfranchised people is the exact reason that I was first drawn to the idea of opinion writing.

It is not difficult to see why careers in journalism are highly sought after when they are marketed as opportunities to travel and meet fascinating people, but there are still under-reported issues on poverty, crime, injustice and discrimination that live in our own backyard that barely get news coverage or attention within our own communities. As a student journalist, my plan was always to provide a public service by observing, documenting and reporting on the human condition, as gritty as it may be, through fair and accurate coverage.

In many ways, my role as the viewpoints writer and editor has helped me become a more fair and accurate news writer, since doing so has developed my data gathering and research abilities, which enables me to showcase all sides of a controversial topic.

This is a view that Rosenthal and I share, since he also spoke on his ability to shed light on issues that help promote progressive views in our society.

On April 16, I saw Rosenthal’s passion to pursue visibility, awareness, advocacy and allyship in everyday communities. And on that day, I was reminded of the need for people like him and me in the journalism industry.

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