From Day One, journalism students are told to keep themselves out of their work. No first-person stories. Limited adjectives and adverbs. Sparing point-of-view writing. Certainly no outright opinion.
Those rules don’t apply to Miami’s JRN418 — Opinion in the News.
During the spring 2015 semester, 20 students were challenged to craft reasoned, researched opinions on a wide range of current topics and artistic works. While studying traditional editorial page offerings, they wrote an editorial about campus rape and a self-selected personal column. While considering a range of critical analysis work, they reviewed Jon Stewart’s “Rosewater,” Phil Klay’s “Redeployment” and, more briefly, Miami students’ Freedom Summer art and high school students’ “Uptown Funk” video. In between, they analyzed a New York Times’ Sunday Review section; learned about performance reviews from guest David Lyman, a Cincinnati Enquirer writer; and enjoyed the cartoon commentary of guest Michael Shaw, a local New Yorker cartoonist. They honed their online voice, too, offering 15 mini-commentaries, 140 characters at a time, on issues of the day. (Search #JRN418 for their weekly Tuesday Twitter posts.)
For a final project, students wrote about Ohio’s death penalty. The always-controversial topic was back in the news in the spring of 2015, as the state’s leading opponent of capital punishment, Ohioans to Stop Executions, launched its “Fix It or End It” campaign and two state legislators teamed up on bills to implement suggested reforms. OTSE Executive Director Kevin Werner briefed students on his group’s efforts, and they conducted interviews and research to write a column expressing their views and a related news story. Some of their work also appeared in an editorial page package on pages 6-7 of the The Miami Student, the leading student-run media organization on campus. (I’m particularly fond of that day’s cartoon.)
Members of the class included the following:
- Abigail Bates, a junior journalism and French major from Chillicothe, Ohio, works for HerCampus.com and UP magazine at Miami University. She will be working for Charleston magazine in South Carolina this summer and hopes to pursue a career in magazine or online journalism after graduation. Here is Abby’s opinion about the death penalty along with reporting on Ohio’s research on the topic.
- Ellen Conley, a senior journalism and political science major from Concord, Ohio, is the editor-in-chief of HerCampus.com at Miami. While at Miami she has also been a writer for UP magazine, MQ magazine and co-hosted of a radio show for WMSR. After graduation she plans to find a job in magazine publishing in New York City. Ellie reviews legislation on the death penalty and shares her opinion here.
- Chris Curme, a junior math and economics major from Oxford, Ohio, works at The Miami Student on campus and Vantiv in Cincinnati. Next year he will earn his master’s degree in economics; his thesis considers marriage incentives within same-sex couples and the economic ramifications of same-sex marriage bans. After graduation, Chris hopes to open a brewery with his dad and make donuts. Chris writes about the death penalty, including two Death Row inmates who were convicted in Butler County, here.
- Amanda Hancock, a senior journalism and English major from Lexington, Ky., works for The Miami Student and is on Miami’s varsity cross country and track team. After graduation, she is moving to Colorado Spring for a features internship with the city’s newspaper, The Gazette. Amanda writes about Ohioans to Stop Executions and shares her opinion here.
- Shelby Hyde, a junior, is deeply invested in fashion journalism with a fashion blog and several internships related to her passions. She will be editor of HerCampus at Miami next year and will intern for PS Dept and jewelry company Tarin Thomas in New York City this summer. Here she writes about two Death Row inmates from Butler County, and offers her take on the death penalty.
- Lauren Kiggins is a graduating Miami University senior studying journalism, marketing and violin performance. In her final year at Miami, she was general manager of WMSR radio station and editor of the arts page for The Miami Student. She hopes to move to Manhattan to pursue a career in magazine journalism. She explores the cases of two Butler County Death Row inmates and her stance on capital punishment here.
- Jane Koestring is a junior journalism and German major from Glenview, Ill. She writes for MQ magazine and hopes to contribute to The Miami Student in the fall. After graduation, Jane hopes to venture west and use her journalism skills working for the National Parks. For JRN418, Jane looks at three cases from Butler County and offers her opinion here.
- Brett Milam, a senior philosophy major from Cincinnati, is a regular columnist for The Miami Student. He will intern with the Post Independent in Glenwood Springs, Colo., this summer and hopes to pursue journalism after graduation. Here is his opinion piece and reporting on racial disparities in capital punishment.
- Brent Novosel is a junior at Miami University studying strategic communication and entrepreneurship. Brent enjoys reading, writing, and sharing his opinions with others. Brent will be working as a communications intern this summer, and hopes to own and operate his own business in the future. He looked into exonerated Death Row inmates and offers his position here.
- Nick Ramsey is junior journalism and economics major from Columbus, Ohio. He is interested in business reporting and will intern with Columbus Business First this summer. Nick reviewed the history of Ohio’s death penalty and shares his work here.
- Angie Riffle, a sophomore journalism and botany major from Atlanta, is an intern at Avant Gardener. She will spend fall semester in Luxembourg, where she will produce weekly vlogs and author a travel blog. She hopes to land a job in scientific or travel writing after graduation. Angie looked into the role of DNA evidence in death penalty cases; her work is here.
- Alyssa Sato, a junior journalism and comparative media studies major with a minor in photography from Indianapolis, works as a photographer for various publications at Miami. She will work as a PR director for a small Indianapolis organization this summer and hopes to write and photograph for other magazines in the future. She created the graphic on this page for JRN418 and shares her opinion here.
- Emily Schmidt, a junior journalism and strategic communication major from Cleveland, is an executive board member of the sorority Delta Zeta. This summer she will be working at Angstrom Graphics as a marketing and social media intern. After graduation next year she hopes to land a job in the field of public relations. Emily looked at death penalty lawsuits charging “cruel and unusual punishment” and offers her final project here.
- James Steinbauer is a sophomore journalism and international studies double-major at Miami University. He is currently the editorial page editor of The Miami Student and hopes to work as a foreign correspondent and backpack journalist with the ultimate aspiration of being published in National Geographic. James researched the cases of three exonerated inmates in addition to penning his opinion here.
- Marissa Stipek is a junior journalism major with minors in gerontology and sociology. This summer, she will work in a nursing home in Cleveland, her hometown. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career that combines her love of writing with her interest in the field of aging. Marissa looked at lethal injection drugs; here is that work, plus her opinion piece.
- Emily Tate, a junior journalism and international studies major from White House, Tenn., is a managing editor of The Miami Student. She will intern this summer at a non-profit in Washington, D.C. After graduation, she hopes to work somewhere she can contribute to human rights reform and sustainable economic development in Sub-Saharan Africa. Emily offers her opinion and examines the cases of three exonerated inmates here.
- Reis Thebault, a junior journalism and individualized studies major from Ann Arbor, Mich., is editor of The Miami Student. He will intern on the news desk with The Columbus Dispatch this summer and aspires to be a foreign correspondent after graduation. Reis summarizes his stance on the death penalty and reports on his interview with Ohio Sen. Bill Seitz about his bills to reform capital punishment here.
- Sheila Timmons is a junior journalism and political science major from Bay Village, Ohio. She will intern at Cincinnati magazine this summer and hopes to work in digital media after graduation. Sheila took a look at death penalty issues across the country and shares her opinion here.
- Julia Valencia, a junior journalism and strategic communications major from Novi, Mich. She will study abroad in the fall in Prague, Czech Republic, and has a marketing internship this summer in Chicago with Jonnypops. Julia’s look at the cost of Ohio’s death penalty and her opinion piece is here.
- Ariel Wiley is a junior journalism and communications double major from Columbus, Ohio. She will serve as president for both Miami Television News and the Miami chapter of Society of Professional Journalists next year. She will intern with strategic communications company Hillenby in Washington D.C., this summer. Here is her work on mental illness and death penalty, plus her opinion piece.