What do student journalists need?

by Kayla Perry

Talking about criminalization of poverty - Netroots 2014 - Amber RichardsonOn July 19, student journalists associated with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and CWA Canada gathered during the Netroots Nation conference to answer one question: what do student journalists need?

During the three hour meeting, attendees discussed what student journalists need in order to succeed, in both their university careers and their professional careers once they graduate. Included among those gathered were nine student journalists from various universities across Canada and the United States, including students from Ohio State University and San Francisco State University, as well as various working professionals belonging to The Newspaper Guild (TNG) and CWA. The two students from Canada belong to CWA Canada as associate members, which is a free membership for emerging media workers.

All members of the group unanimously agreed: times are tough for journalists, especially those beginning their careers. And, while journalism school often aims to offer guidance, there is only so much a student can learn inside the classroom. The members of the strategy session brainstormed possible concrete supports that could be offered to students, to help them succeed in their careers after they graduate.

Although many options were discussed, the most popular suggestions involved courses being held for student journalists, in order to teach students things such as building an effective resume and creating a portfolio, how to market yourself in the field, pitch stories and ace interviews. A popular suggestion by Bernie Lunzer, of TNG and CWA, was holding a series of mock job-interviews, so students may practice their interview skills and gain feedback on how they should improve, and appropriate questions to ask.

Other popular ideas were the manufacturing of a union-wide press pass, which would present student journalists with some level of credentials when covering events, and an app or website for freelancers to share their rate of pay for previous stories at various publications. Calla Camero, a student journalist currently studying at San Francisco State University, stated “news is the most important thing in the world, but as student journalists we need to be taken seriously.”

Although there was some discussion regarding whether or not the pass should state the holder is a “student” or not, Sara Steffens, of TNG and CWA, said that there is “nothing preventing students from also being freelancers.” In the end, the group was divided on whether the pass should state if someone is a student or not, but one thing was certain: a press pass would be discussed further by CWA, something the group believed could be highly beneficial for young student journalists who are trying to gain access to cover events.

As can be expected in any instance where journalists gather, the issue of unpaid internships was also discussed at length. Those young journalists who can manage to afford to work for free, are still faced with the troubling choice of completing an internship without pay, and gaining experience, versus not accepting unpaid work but missing out on opportunities to gain experience.

“Somebody has to fight for interns,” said Amber Richardson, a student and Steering Committee Member of CWA Canada Associate Members, after a series of students in the group recounted stories from times spent completing unpaid internships, many of which were not actually internships but full time work without mentors or guidance.

Although many ideas resulted from the strategy session held at the conference, members of the meeting agreed to stay in touch via possible monthly conference calls, to work out the logistics of some of the ideas discussed, such as the press pass.

The Netroots Nation 2014 conference was held in Detroit, MI, from July 17-20, in the COBO Conference Center, and featured various politicians as keynote speakers, including Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Elizabeth Warren. The progressive conference attendees varied from communication workers and journalists, to teachers and political activists. Netroots Nation 2015 will be held in Phoenix, Arizona, in mid-July.


Kayla Perry is a student, journalist, and CWA Canada Associate Member Steering Committee Member. She can be found drinking copious amounts of green tea and hunting down sources.


Posted on September 9, 2014 at 10:32 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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