Student editors gain valuable insight to strengthen The Leader at MediaFest22

Roger Coda
Student editors, Communication major, Journalism major

Leader editors Alyssa Bump, Will Karr and Chloe Kowalyk at MediaFest22, a major conference held in Washington, D.C.

Top editors of The Leader brought back plenty of new ideas to enhance their newsroom operation from MediaFest22, a four-day journalism conference conducted by the Society of Professional Journalists, Associated Collegiate Press and College Media Association in Washington, D.C.

MediaFest22 brought together professional journalists along with several hundred student journalists and college media advisers from across the country convened in the nation’s capital for the Oct. 27 to 30 conference.

Faculty advisor and students standing in front of the White House
The White House in the background of a photo taken of Elmer Ploetz, Chloe Kowalyk, Will Karr and Alyssa Bump, who were in Washington to attend MediaFest22.

Alyssa Bump, editor in chief and design editor; Chloe Kowalyk, managing editor; and Will Karr, news editor and Life & Arts editor, gathered information at lectures and hands-on workshops and listened to presentations by renowned speakers. Department of Communication Associate Professor Elmer Ploetz, adviser of the student newspaper, also attended the conference held at the Grand Hyatt Washington.

The Leader will host a presentation/discussion to share key benefits of the conference at its office in  Williams Center Room S206, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m. Interested students and faculty are invited to attend to learn more about their experience.

The trio has already begun to apply some of what they learned through activities and brainstorming sessions, said Ms. Bump, a senior majoring in Communication: Journalism and Communication: Public Relations, with a minor in English, from Cuba, N.Y. “We are also working to encourage more autonomy, competence and relatedness to our staff by creating a more open environment,” she added.

“It is difficult to sum up how transformative and valuable this conference experience is to me. MediaFest opened my eyes to the plentiful career possibilities in the field of journalism.” – Alyssa Bump

“What we brought back was a ton of new ideas for improving The Leader and making it an even more relevant news source and public forum moving forward into the future,” Mr. Ploetz said. Students learned about legal issues, ways to improve content and design, he added. The Leader was also critiqued by an outside observer. 

Keynote presentations were given by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein – the young Washington Post reporters who uncovered a flawed break-in at the Democratic Party headquarters in Washington during the 1972 presidential campaign that ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, and ABC News correspondent John Quiñones.

“It is difficult to sum up how transformative and valuable this conference experience is to me. MediaFest opened my eyes to the plentiful career possibilities in the field of journalism,” Bump said. “Although many of us entering the field of journalism are told that the field is dying, this conference cemented that journalism is more valuable and necessary today than ever before.”

The biggest conference takeaway for Ms. Kowalyk, a junior majoring in Communication: Journalism and Psychology, with a minor in English, from Buffalo, were the varied perspectives she says will help her direct an effective and happy group of student leaders.

Kowalyk’s favorite session was “Taking Your Podcast to the Next Level,” presented by NPR associate producer Lydia Calitri. “I help out with and produce several podcasts here at Fredonia Radio Systems, so it gave me some good tools to apply to that context. It also inspired me to consider starting a podcast for The Leader,” Kowalyk said. She plans to apply concepts dealing with leadership and journalism at both The Leader and in her professional career.

Mr. Karr found the conference to be transformative and inspiring on a personal level, as “this was the first time I had ever been in the same room as journalists that look like me.” The conference made him realize that there is indeed space for him in the journalism field.

The seminar “Perspectives on Journalism’s Future,” by Pauly Denetclaw, an indigenous political correspondent for Indian Country Today, a daily digital news platform that covers the indigenous world, was Karr’s favorite event. “In her work, Denetclaw denounces racism candidly and bluntly, which she said has caused her to be fired from mainstream jobs for not remaining ‘objective.’ She overall stressed the importance of minorities finding spaces that are reflective of who they are as individuals,” explained Karr, a senior majoring in Communication: Journalism, from Jamestown.

Denetclaw emphasized the importance of allowing people of color to be able to tell their own stories and the importance of diversifying newsrooms, Karr said.

“Overall, through her keynote, I learned the importance of not sacrificing who I am to fit into the values of a media outlet. I will eventually find an outlet that encapsulates what I stand for as an individual,” Karr said.

“Using Audience and Community Engagement to Make Better Journalism,” a seminar led by Matt Rasnic, associate editor and producer of Social Media with the PBS Newshour, was Bump’s favorite session.

“Rasnic identified the differences between an audience and a community, identified the best way to reach these two groups through various social media platforms and provided valuable insight on entering the social media field of journalism,” Bump said.

It’s been difficult for The Leader staff to continue producing such incredible work with one of the smallest staffs in its history, Bump noted. “Yet, our staff continues to defy the odds through their outpouring of dedication and discipline. As we have moved into this semester, we have begun to recruit more members, and we feel the burden of multiple position responsibilities begin to soften. Now, we must focus on the future of the campus newspaper.”

 

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