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“Developing Stories” conference gives students an insight into the world of media

By Joseph Frescott, Assistant Sports Editor

The department of communications & film held an event featuring an array of journalists on Monday, April 18 from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.. The event, which took place at Lorber Hall, featured a panel of four journalists coming from a variety of diverse backgrounds. 

Each of the journalists on the panel has years of experience in the field of journalism, starting with David Giambusso, who was a former staff writer for Politico that currently works as an editor for WNYC and the Gothamist. Katie Jennings also had experience working for Politico as a healthcare reporter, and now works for Forbes as a staff writer. Ruben Davis has experience producing in Spotify and VICE News, and is now working on a primetime special for ABC News. Garance Franke-Ruta most recently worked as the executive editor of GEN by Medium, and had experience editing for the Atlatic and Washington Post as well. 

This discussion was organized by the Department Chair of communications Susan Zeig, with senior communications and theatre major Shelley Dean and sophomore communications major Alexander Mousa helping lead the conversation. The event featured both Zoom and in-person speakers, as Davis and Giambusso were unable to attend in-person. 

When discussing the motivations of these journalists, Franke-Ruta recalled what she found appealing about being a journalist. 

“If you are curious, kind of noisy, and sociable, [journalism] allows you to make that into a profession,” Franke-Ruta said. “The thing [that is unique] about journalism is the life you get to have as you work. You get to really be there and talk to people and ask questions that are important, impertinent, and things that you are wondering about and I think that is really cool.”

As the conversation progressed, the challenges that journalists face became a prevalent theme.While Jennings and Franke-Ruta cited time management and the rapidly changing business models as some of the biggest challenges they face, Davis and Giambusso agreed that getting access is a hurdle that all journalists have to overcome.

“The central challenge for any journalist is really getting information from people who don’t want you to have it. It is the most important part of the job,” Giambusso said. “It takes a lot of making sources and making sure you are open to stories wherever you can find them. The primary role of journalists is to uncover stuff that people don’t want to uncover, which leads to the constant tension.”

In conjunction with Giambusso’s belief that sources can be difficult to find, Ruben Davis also noted the issues that the current landscape of media presents today.

“I think that the story of the media today is one of change and instability. When you get a group of journalists together, especially people who are just coming up, it sounds very scary,” Giambusso said. “I think that defining characteristic in journalism is not all that different than the key skills you need today to operate in a workplace; which is the ability to change and adapt. I think people today are more suited to that.”

When discussing the current climate of journalism and media as a whole, a recurring talking point was the subscription model that many news organizations have adopted for their online publications. For Jennings, a staff writer at Forbes specializing in healthcare and business, the appeal for the reader remains the same.

“At the end of the day, whether you are in front of a paywall or behind a paywall, whether you are writing for a local news site or a national publication, people want to read unique [stories],” Jennings said. “People still want those scoops and news they are not gonna get anywhere else. There is this constant figuring out what do readers want and how do we use technology to respond to that.” 

Another prevalent topic that emerged from this discussion was objectivity in reporting, and whether journalists are ever truly able to put their bias aside when covering a story. With each of the journalists having their own beliefs on the subject, Franke-Ruta offers prospective journalists advice on how to address this in their reporting. 

“One of the ways I think people can bring perspective into their stories while still being fair and not prejudging anything is to bring your perspective in when you ask the question. The question you chose to explore is where you make the choice. But you don’t know what the answer is. That’s why you are a journalist,” Franke-Ruta said. “The answer may be totally different than what you think and may be contrary to the interests of the people you care about. But you start with a question and you express your personal views through the choice of questions you seek to explore rather than the questions you get along the way.”

While issues such as objectivity, bothsideism and the views on segmented media were up for debate, all of the journalists unanimously agreed on one thing; be wary of what you put on social media. 

“Twitter has been a real problem for journalists because people think ‘oh it’s Twitter, it doesn’t really matter’. This is the conversation happening in newsrooms right now because people are always getting in trouble for posting biased stuff and basically crossing over these lines,” Jennings said. “Anyone that [Forbes] hires, they are looking at their Twitter, Instagram, and all of their social media accounts to see how they behave online … Think about what you are doing online now.”

Throughout the entire hour-long conversation, the journalists addressed many of the pertinent problems surrounding journalism today, and offered important advice to young journalists looking to make it in this highly competitive field. Giambusso reflected on the selfless nature of the journalism profession as a whole.

“Every journalist makes a sacrifice. The pay isn’t that great and the hours can be tough and it is hard to have people consistently shut you down,” Giambusso said. “The folks who are in those warzones and reporting on those oppressive regimes are really the most inspiring.”

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