Inside one of the top journalism schools in America, students from all over the world wait with breathless anticipation in Columbia’s Pulitzer Hall, the home of the School of Journalism. Anxiety and joy lingers in the air. Students greet one another as they take their seats and wait for the thrilling workshop to commence.
From June 18 to June 23 2017, passionate young journalists convened at Columbia University School of Journalism for its 36th Annual Summer Journalism Workshop. Here, student reporters, editors, and designers came together to hone their respective skills not only by attending lectures, but also by conducting their own interviews and receiving mentorship from experienced journalists.
One of the most popular classes was Reporting Class #1 which was taught by Mr. Chris Waugaman, a high school Journalism teacher at Prince George High School, who has been accoladed as the National High School Journalism Teacher of 2014.
A student from his workshop class asserted, “Mr. Waugaman has been an excellent mentor who has made the classes intriguing and tangible. He is very open to helping the students by providing extra feedback on our previous articles.”
Throughout the workshop, students were given ample opportunities to interact with other students from different schools and countries. By sharing with one another about their articles that or even further about how they run their journalism classes from their respective schools, students gained invaluable ideas of how to better their school newspaper. After sharing their personal experiences with journalism, the participants listened to Mr. Waugaman’s lecture on tips for making student journalism increasingly engaging.
The crux of the workshop was the hands-on work students were able to perform. After learning how to effectively conduct interviews for profile articles, students practiced such interviewing skills amongst themselves. Subsequently, they had the opportunity to take a next step in testing their student-journalist vulnerabilities: interviewing restaurateurs within the high-profile culinary culture of New York City.
Nevertheless, the young journalists were able to overcome fear by using the skills they had developed through rehearsals within the journalism program. One group even interviewed the staff at Tom’s Restaurant, which had been famously featured in the TV show series Seinfeld.
In addition to applying those skills and composing a feature article, students also participated in multiple press conferences with female sports journalists and even with the cast of a Broadway show. These ample opportunities to practice interviewing, listening, and forming articles engendered a platform for these young prospective journalists glimpse their futures and to understand authentic journalism.
Despite the end, the young journalists retain the skills acquired from the countless interviews and writing. They not only practiced journalism but also realized that true, effective journalism can only be built through practice and empathy.