News

Kevin Lindstrom Places in Top 20 of Hearst Photo Competition

Congratulations to UConn Senior Kevin Lindstrom for placing in the Top 20 of the 2021-22 Hearst Journalism Awards Photo One Competition. Lindstrom serves as photo editor of The Daily Campus and is a student of UConn Journalism Prof. Steve Smith.

Here is one of the images from Kevin’s winning photo entry.

UConn Men’s Soccer midfielder Mateo Leveque celebrates after scoring a goal off a penalty kick during UConn’s 2–2 tie against Creighton University on Oct. 16, 2021 in rainy conditions at Morrone Stadium. Photo by Kevin Lindstrom

The Hearst Journalism Awards program provides scholarships to students for outstanding performance in college-level journalism, with matching grants to the students’ schools. There are 103 nationally accredited undergraduate journalism programs participating in the competition in 2021-22.

UConn Journalism senior Gladi Suero wins 2021 Zavala Scholarship

Gladi Suero
UConn Journalism senior Gladi Suero is the 2021 winner of a $2000 scholarship from NAHJ New England.

Gladi Suero, a senior at the University of Connecticut who is double majoring in Journalism and Communications and double minoring in Latino Studies and Diversity Studies in American Culture, is the 2021 winner of the Hortencia Zavala Scholarship from the New England Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Suero is the first in their family to attend college and has a 4.0 GPA. Suero is interested in the intersection of journalism and social justice and is currently interning at St. Vincent DePaul Mission of Waterbury, the largest homeless shelter in Connecticut.

“Latinx people have been shut out of the media for far too long. We need to have a voice in news writing and newsgathering in order for readers, Latinx or not, to get the full picture,” Suero wrote as part of the winning application. “This goes so much deeper than needing to meet diversity and inclusion expectations. This is about whose voice is telling the story and the Latinx voice is a strong, colorful, multifaceted one that needs to be heard.”

Suero, who uses they/them pronouns, is the tenth Latinx student to receive a Hortencia Zavala Scholarship. The fund was created in 2016 by Hugo Balta, a former NAHJ president, as a way to help striving Latinx students while honoring the legacy of his grandmother, Hortencia Zavala.

“It is crucial that the next generation of diverse journalists get the education and mentoring necessary to produce authentic narratives about the challenges and opportunities of the emerging majority,” Balta said. “The lack of Hispanic/Latino representation in newsrooms often produces one dimensional, biased storytelling shaping the general public’s perception of a dynamic community.”

According to the U.S. Census, there were 62.1 million Americans of Latin American descent in 2020, representing about 19% of the U.S. population. Clost to one in five Americans are Latina/o/x. In New England, Latinos are also the largest minority group, comprising 12% of the population.

The Hortencia Zavala Scholarship Fund has awarded a total of $21,000 since 2017 through NAHJ chapters to support Latino students pursuing a career in journalism. This year’s scholarship was facilitated and judged by three members of the New England Chapter of NAHJ: Mónica Hernández, an anchor for WMUR TV in New Hampshire; Steph Solís, the digital editor of the Boston Business Journal and the Providence Business Journal; and Kevin G. Andrade, a freelance journalist based in Rhode Island who specializes in issues related to immigrant communities.

Coming to a consensus on a winning applicant was difficult because all of the submissions were exemplary, according to Andrade.

“Gladi’s submission showed a commitment to NAHJ’s mission,” Andrade said. “Most impressive were the guts they demonstrated in their submitted story sample which examined issues of racism and sexual violence on the UCONN campus in a way that centered the narrative not only on those affected directly by the issues, but extending that spotlight to show how that community is taking power into its own hands as they advocate for solutions. Gladi’s willingness to tackle these topics at such an established institution demonstrated the guts necessary to fulfill our mission as journalists to speak truth to power,” he said.

‘WILDFIRE’ selected for Global Conscience World Film Festival

UConn Journalism Prof. Steven G. Smith‘s short film WILDFIRE was recently accepted into the Global Conscience World Film Festival. The film was also selected for distribution on the Global Conscience World streaming channel.

Utilizing powerful images of major blazes known as “mega-fires,” the film reflects on our relationship with fire, past and present, and asks how fire will define our future. Mega-fires are erupting at a rate seven times greater each year in the past decade. They are burning upward of 10,000 acres and sterilizing the earth with their intensity.

WILDFIRE: Forest Fires in the American West was selected as one of the “best short films of the last ten years” at the Reel Earth Environmental Film Festival in New Zealand. The film has also won awards at the Los Angeles New Media Film Festival and was featured in the Planet in Focus, International Film & Video Festival in Toronto, Canada.

The film was produced and photographed by Prof. Smith. It was written and narrated by Walter Gallacher.

Watch the film on Global Conscience World or on Vimeo:

UConn Journalism joins Planet Forward Consortium

Planet Forward, a project of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs, teaches, celebrates, and rewards environmental storytelling by college students.

Through the Planet Forward Consortium, students from colleges and universities gain access to learning modules and workshops in effective environmental and science communication, participate in events, and compete in a prestigious annual storytelling contest, Storyfest.

UConn Journalism has joined the consortium through the efforts of Associate Professor Scott Wallace, who teaches our Environmental Journalism course. Learn more here: https://www.planetforward.org/consortiumschools

Alumni Spotlight: Aysha Mahmood ’14, editing Channel Kindness

Aysha Mahmood’s job is, in short, to make kindness cool, a goal as ambitious as it is straightforward. The idea alone can make people roll their eyes, she says, “especially if you consider yourself too cool to be kind.”

Mahmood ’14 (CLAS) obviously does not. She works for Born This Way Foundation, the nonprofit co-founded by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, to promote mental health and activism in young people. Mahmood does that essentially with good news. From her home office in Windsor, Connecticut, she edits the foundation’s Channel Kindness, a digital platform that features stories by young people from around the globe about how they are changing the world.

Read the full story in UConn Magazine.

Learn about writing-based careers on 11/9 with Curtis Wong ’01

Curtis Wong ’01 (Photo by Damon Dahlen/Huffington Post)

Learn about writing-based careers at CLAS Career Night on Tuesday, November 9 at 5:30 p.m. Come network with UConn CLAS alumni working in various writing-focused careers and ask questions about their career journeys.

One of the featured speakers is Curtis Wong, a 2001 UConn Journalism graduate who is a senior culture reporter at The Huffington Post, where he covers breaking news, politics and entertainment impacting the LGBTQ community and other marginalized groups.

Wong is known in New York media circles as HuffPost’s pop diva savant and Broadway theater enthusiast. Previously, he was a Staff Writer at The Prague Post in the Czech Republic, and has also written for Billboard and The Hartford Courant, among other publications. Most of his on-campus memories involve the Daily Campus newsroom, and he still wears the Husky blue and white with pride.

Other panelists include: 
  • Nandini D’Souza-Wolfe, ’97, English, VP Global Storytelling & Editorial at Tory Burch
  • Rebecca Hasko, ’13, Sociology, Grant Writer at Economic Mobility Pathways
  • Dr. Melissa-Sue John, ’08 ’10 Ph.D., Psychology, CEO at Lauren Simone Publishing House
  • Anne McAuley Lopez, ’96, Economics, SEO Content Writer and Content Strategist at Agency Content Writer
  • Paul Orzulak, ’89, History & Political Science, Founding Partner at West Wing Writers
  • Soniya Assudani Patel, ’19, Ph.D. Neuroscience, Senior Medical Writer at Apothecom

Students should register for the event via Handshake: https://uconn.joinhandshake.com/events/786412

Writing based careers

Amanda Crawford Elected to National JAWS Board

Amanda CrawfordAssistant Professor Amanda J. Crawford has been elected to the national board of directors of the Journalism & Women Symposium.

JAWS is a 35-year-old nonprofit organization of journalists, educators and researchers that provides support, training and resources on issues impacting women (cisgender and transgender) and non-binary individuals in the journalism field. JAWS’ mission is to support “the professional empowerment and personal growth of women in journalism” and to advocate and work toward “a more accurate portrayal of the whole society.”

Crawford is a former Bloomberg News reporter with a background covering gender issues, including sexual assault and reproductive rights, and an academic focus on journalism ethics. She is an advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in journalism and higher education and is herself a first-generation college student.

Crawford joined the board during its annual conference Oct. 15-17, during which she also co-hosted the academic social hour and lead a panel discussion, “Journalism in a Post-Truth World: Best Practices for Covering Misinformation, Disinformation & Conspiracy Theories.”

 

Lunch & Learn on Sept. 29: Jobs in Broadcast Production

Bring your lunch and join UConn Journalism for an hour on Wednesday, Sept. 29 for our first "Careers in Journalism" event of the semester. Learn about jobs in broadcast production and network with three alumni working at ESPN and NBC Connecticut.

The event will be held in OAK 408  from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. It will be moderated by UConn Journalism's broadcast journalism instructor Steve Kalb. All students are welcome.

Those unable to join in-person can listen in and submit questions virtually through WebEx: http://s.uconn.edu/oak408webex.


Our featured speakers: 

Cheyenne Leeman is a 2016 UConn Journalism grad who works as a production coordinator at ESPN. She started as a production operations intern the spring semester of her senior year. She has 7+ years of television production and production management experience in a wide variety of live TV atmospheres including event and studio production. She currently coordinates production for ESPN College Basketball and the ESPYs. As a UConn student, she worked at UCTV and completed internships at WTNH-TV and The Jerry Springer Show.

More info: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cheyenne-leeman-56ba76a7/

Eric Weeks is a full time producer at NBC Connecticut (WVIT-TV), the NBC-owned and operated station in West Hartford.  Previously he served as a live replay editor using EVS and NewTek's 3Play and videography for various sporting events at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field and the XL Center in Hartford Connecticut. Weeks graduated from UConn in 2016 with a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Communication. As a student, he gained experience at UCTV and UConn Athletic Communications. He also worked as a digital editorial producer for NBCOlympics.com.

More info: https://www.linkedin.com/in/eweeks/

Kasey O'Brien is an associate producer at ESPN's ACC Network. Previously she worked her way up to associate producer at NBC Nightly News, starting as an intern, desk assistant, and then researcher. She also worked an a production intern at The Rachel Maddow Show. O'Brien graduated from UConn with a double major in Political Science and Journalism in 2016 and went on to earn a Master's degree from S.I. Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University.

More info: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaseyobrien/

Q&A with UConn Journalism’s incoming department head Marie K. Shanahan on the changing landscape of news & information

Teacher working with journalism students
Marie Shanahan ’94, seen here working with students, will be the third head of the UConn journalism department in the program’s 56-year history. (Bri Diaz/UConn Photo)

As the only nationally accredited program of its kind in New England, the UConn Department of Journalism has for decades played a role in shaping how the news is reported, disseminated, and understood. Alumni have made their marks in places as far away as Berlin and Moscow, and as close to home as Willimantic and Manchester, and their ranks include winners of every major award in the industry, including the Pulitzer Prize.

Starting in Fall 2021, Marie Shanahan ’94 (CLAS), an award-winning print and online journalist who has taught at UConn since 2011, will become just the third department head in the program’s nearly 60-year history.

Shanahan – who in 2022 will conduct research in the Philippines as a Fulbright US Scholar – recently spoke with UConn Today about the state of the news industry, the opportunities for experimentation that exist at UConn, and why the skills that make good journalists are more valuable now than ever. The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

When you look at the news industry right now, what do you see? Are you optimistic, pessimistic, something in between?

It’s a mixed bag, actually. Right now there are a lot of interesting things happening on the nonprofit side, which I’ve been able to see develop here in Connecticut [Shanahan serves as a board member for two nonprofit news organizations, the Connecticut Health Investigative Team, and the Connecticut Mirror]. There are a lot of opportunities to do really valuable journalism, and to find new ways to fund it.

On the other hand, you see what’s happening to newspapers, and it’s so disheartening. I worry in particular about local news. As good as these journalism nonprofits are, right now they’re not doing what newspapers traditionally have done, which is closely pay attention to what’s happening on the local level.

Given that, what are your priorities as the head of the UConn journalism department?

As head of the journalism department at UConn, where we’re educating the next generation of journalists, there are a number of things we need to do. We need to look at how news organizations are finally coming to grips with the need to improve diversity within the newsroom, and our role in that is to attract a more diverse group of potential journalists, and direct them to mainstream news organizations, or to something new and exciting that’s coming up.

We just hired a new faculty member, Martine Granby, who has a joint appointment with the Africana Studies Institute as part of the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s new Anti-Racism and Anti-Bias cohort. She’s a documentarian. She looks at the news through the medium of documentary film, which is a wonderful opportunity for our department, to have someone who can change some of our curriculum and bring these new perspectives and skills to UConn.

Another thing I want to do is look for synergies. We have all these things happening at UConn – the School of Business, Digital Media and Design, you name it – and I’m always interested to see what kinds of partnerships can be developed. I love that UConn rewards entrepreneurship, and I’d love to see our students work with, say, business students on new ways to fund good journalism. Journalism is interdisciplinary by nature anyway, and the University is a perfect environment to develop that.

Speaking of new skills and perspectives, what are the skills UConn journalism students should develop? The industry has changed so much in a short period of time, but I imagine some of the fundamentals still apply.

Some of our graduates go into journalism, and some don’t. But what we want is for all of them to be clear communicators, because those skills are valuable wherever you go. Other departments are always coming to us to ask for students who can help with writing or editing, because people know journalism majors are good communicators.

You have to be able to write, obviously, but it’s more than that. Every student has to come out of our program with some visual acumen, and we have a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist on our faculty who can show them how to develop that. You have to be able to speak about your work – I teach a podcasting class, for example – which is something new for a lot of journalists. Being on camera, editing audio, editing video, and being able to communicate clearly and effectively on social media are all skills that we teach.

Beyond that, critical thinking is obviously a skill everyone with a college degree should have, but especially for people studying journalism. It’s crucial to have those critical thinking skills when it comes to news literacy, media literacy, information literacy. Today, when information is coming at you like a torrent, and a lot of it is basically garbage, it’s vital to know how to be good consumers of news as well as good producers.

That’s a great segue to talk about what it means to be a journalist, and what journalism means, in 2021. What do people need to be good journalists, and what do people need to be good consumers of journalism?

The technology keeps changing. The way people get their news keeps changing. Nobody gets all their news from one place anymore, it’s all cherry-picking from different sources. One of the first questions I ask students on the first day of class is, “Where do you get your news?” And don’t tell me “I just read the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal,” because no one does that. It’s different for everyone – maybe you check Facebook first thing in the morning, read some emails, look at headlines on Twitter, then get in the car and turn on NPR. Maybe a friend texts you a link to a story. Maybe you get your news from Buzzfeed, or maybe you get your news from TikTok! I’ve got friends who’ve become fully addicted to TikTok, and the Washington Post has a journalist who’s dedicated to producing TikTok videos.

It doesn’t always have to be the way it was. You can produce the news in so many different ways, so you need to think about the best way to reach the audience you want to reach. That’s one of the great things about UConn, we can experiment with all of this.

Because I’m on those two nonprofit boards, I get to hear about what’s happening in this industry every day, and what I hear about is how they’re dealing with super fragmented audiences and the trust problem. We’re struggling to convince half of America to accept basic facts, and for some people there’s an automatic distrust of journalists.

That’s something we need to address, and one of the ways you do that is by having conversations with people and making sure they’re represented. Not every student at UConn is a liberal, and it’s great to have these conversations with students who lean right, lean left, and some who aren’t sure what direction they lean at all, and talk through how they go about receiving information and what builds their trust. The same thing is true of people from minority communities, which haven’t gotten the most detailed or in-depth coverage in the past. The more that people see themselves in the news, the more they’re likely to engage with it.

A big part of journalism is just being adaptable. What’s great about journalism is that you get to learn something new every day, and you get to talk to real people about real problems. We have the opportunity at UConn to innovate and try new things as this industry changes, and I’m excited for it.

Once novelty, now necessity: Journalism alumni share their favorite technology and apps that got them through the pandemic

 Headshots of UConn Journalism alumni
UConn Journalism alumni tell us about the tech that helped them get through the pandemic. On the left, Eric Ferreri and Zac Boyer; center, Purbita Saha; on the right, Jeremy Kohler and Grant Welker.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought out new forms of resilience in journalists. While the world retreated to houses and apartments, public life closed, and traditional ways of finding people disappeared, reporters found that technology provided a crucial line of communication to sources and coworkers. It made the difference between getting work done and not getting it done, in many cases.We asked UConn Journalism alumni and faculty to name their favorite app, program, or technological gadget that allowed them to keep working through the pandemic. The answers range from methods to do reporting to methods that save or transmit documents and data.

Prof. Maureen Croteau, the outgoing department chair, said her favorite tool is Scanner Pro, a scanning app that allows sending documents electronically. What once might have seemed like an alternative method of sending something evolved into a necessity during the pandemic.

For Grant Welker ’06, a projects reporter for the Boston Business Journal, the technology he could not do without was Google Sheets. “Especially as a business reporter and particularly during the pandemic, there have been lots of cases of coming across huge spreadsheets that needed to be quickly combed for data or simplified and cleaned up for use with a story,” he said.

He learned how to use Google Sheets from a class taught through the New England First Amendment Coalition. A few weeks ago, Welker said he “relatively very quickly went through a national database to find more than 2,500 restaurants in Massachusetts that received federal pandemic aid.” He had done a similar exercise in his previous job at the Worcester Business Journal in a series that covered Paycheck Protection Program loans and grants in Central Massachusetts, and an earlier story tracking prescription opioids.

Pandemic or no pandemic, 2008 graduate Zac Boyer, NFL editor at The Athletic, said his favorite technology has always been his digital recorder—his Sony, not his smart phone. “Call me old-fashioned,” Boyer said. “I just don’t think it’s professional enough.” He added, “Having the ability to convey what someone says accurately is a pillar of our industry, and there’s no better way to do that than with a tape recorder. That may be basic, but I’ve found that allows me to have a better conversation with a subject or a source than it would if I was just jotting down notes that I might get wrong, too.”


Programs
Zoom, Microsoft Teams, scanning apps, Google Sheets, Blue Yeti Microphone and Otter.ai transcription software, were among the favorite tools of UConn Journalism alumni and faculty during the pandemic.

With newsrooms and studios closed everywhere, journalists’ homes became recording studios for podcasts and interviews. Purbita Saha ’12, a senior editor at Popular Science, said her favorite tool during the pandemic was hardware. “Popular Science gave me a Blue Yeti Mic before the pandemic for occasional guest spots on our podcast, ‘The Weirdest Thing I Learned This Week.’ But now with the microphone, I can turn my drafty apartment into a makeshift audio studio for podcast recording, Zoom webinars, social media, and more.”

Saha said her web cam is terrible but her voice always sounds good for interviewing and connecting with colleagues and online readers.

Reporters have for more than a century relied on telephone calls, but apps that allow calls over computers may have truly come into their own in 2020 and 2021. ProPublica reporter Jeremy Kohler, who graduated in 1994, said iOS TapeACall and Otter.ai, a transcription app, “have been life changing. Being able to quickly transcribe interviews, news conferences and livestreams, has been a huge timesaver and has allowed me to get great quotes, relying less on notes and memory.”

Kohler believes that when he can record interviews, that frees him to do do a better job interviewing. “Worrying less about note taking lets you use all of your brain to ask better questions and control the flow of the interview,” he said. “I’m not sure how I survived this long without them.

Associate Professor Scott Wallace, who reports on indigenous people in South America, said he too puts a phone app first on his list of crucial technology. “This probably sounds kind of antiquated,” Wallace said, “but I’d say without a doubt that for my current project in Brazil, I am using WhatsApp more than anything else.” He said that groups in Brazil keep track of indigenous and environmental issues in Brazil using WhatsApp. “I use it to communicate with Brazilian contacts quickly by text, audio messaging or voice calls.”

Connecticut freelance journalist Jamiah Bennett ‘20, author of a recent piece about the first Black anchor in Connecticut, said she relies the most on her laptop computer. It might seem to go without saying, but imagine living through a pandemic without this basic piece of equipment.  “In terms of technology, I rely on my cell phone and laptop the most. On my phone, I use Instagram, Facebook, and Spotify the most,” Bennett said. “On my laptop, I rely on Google Chrome the most. My favorite piece of technology is my laptop.”

Eric Ferreri, who graduated in 1995, said Zoom for virtual meetings and Microsoft Teams for sharing documents were “crucial” in his work as senior writer for Duke University Communications. Those two programs “became everyday tools to communicate with my team from afar. Zoom isn’t flawless, but it’s easy to learn and use. Teams can be overwhelming because it does so much, so you use it for what you need.”

Ferreri added that he became hooked to the apps that allow ordering food online and picking it up without interacting with anyone.

Reported and written by Christine Woodside, Visiting Assistant Professor in Residence.