One of the best side benefits of teaching Media Matters in the Miami University Summer Scholars program each year: Returning to Cincinnati newsrooms and reconnecting with Miami grads.
That happened again in 2019, with visits to The Cincinnati Enquirer, WVXU-FM, WCPO-TV and Cincinnati magazine; and chats with another handful alums (plus one current student) either in person or online.
Thanks to their great generosity, Media Matters students left Oxford after two weeks with a good grounding in what it means to be a journalist in 2019. The students also returned home with some published work to their credit (posted on their individual pages, below) as well as a couple of fun videos to share.
Among this year’s crop of students were three from Cleveland, one from California, one from New Jersey, one from Wisconsin, and one from Vietnam – all entering their senior year in high school. Combined, they produced 14 short profiles of other Summer Scholars, seven profiles of other Scholars’ courses and seven Q&As with guests on the Media Matters schedule.
- Giade Ensley attends John Hay Senior High School in Cleveland.
- Claire Lordan will enter her final year at Chagrin Falls High School in the Cleveland area.
- Abbey Malley will be a senior at Magnificat High School in Strongsville, also in the Cleveland area.
- Trey Rabinowitz attends Westfield (New Jersey) High School.
- Anna Reid will be a senior at Edgewood High School in Verona, Wisconsin, a Madison suburb.
- Sabrina Sobral will finish high school at Marin Catholic High School in San Anselmo, California, just north of San Francisco.
- Eleanor Vu will finish at Foreign Language Specialized High School in her hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam.
For the condensed version of what they learned into Oxford, check out this video — part of their presentation at the closing Summer Scholars dinner.
And here’s a bit more detail, from their instructor’s point of view:
Bruce Drushel, chair of the Department of Media, Journalism & Film, was first up on Day 1. He offered the long view — noting that The Miami Student, launched in 1826, is the oldest college newspaper west of the Alleghanies; that public radio station WMUB aired from 1950 to 2009 out of Williams Hall; that members of the old Communication Department helped run an academic ad agency called Laws Hall from 1970 to 2007; and that MJF faculty have long embraced new technologies in teaching. Drushel also bragged up MJF’s alums, including Rick Ludwin (class of 1970) whose name went on the Williams Hall TV studio this year. With more than three decades as a top NBC entertainment exec, “everybody in Hollywood knows him,” Drushel said.
Speaking of the Ludwin Studio – that was field trip No. 1 on day Day 1, with Chief Engineer Steve Beitzel serving as director for a faux Summer Scholars TV feature story. We had just enough bodies to cover the essentials: one student each on sound, graphics and teleprompter; and two on cameras and the anchor desk. Quick learners, they produced a 90-second “newscast” with minimal coaching.
Over at King Library, humanities and social sciences librarian Mark Dahlquist led students on a journalism-centric tour. Magazines are housed near the main info desk, next to new fiction. A selection of current newspapers is downstairs in the media center, with microfiche versions of old newspapers nearby. On the third floor, King houses special collections. And, of course, online all things are possible: At Miami, students get free access to The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and easy connections to a myriad of other journalistic sources. Good rule for any journalist or journalism student: If you can’t find what you want, ask a librarian!
Day 1 ended with a trip to the “media wing” of the Armstrong Student Center, where students sampled some left-behind treats in The Miami Student newsroom as they learned about the Student’s robust news product.
Less than two months into her yearlong fellowship at The New York Times, Miami grad Mariel Padilla (class of 2017) has racked up nearly two dozen bylines. Some of her stories come via other media. In that category: A profile of a high-schooler who broke news that inmates were reupholstering the audience seats at his Massachusetts school. Other stories are ones she finds. One example: She sat down next to Jossie Reyas on a Queens bench while covering another story and ended up with a tale about the Filipino women’s time as a cook for rich and famous clients. Either way, Padilla searches for documents that confirm sources’ stories. “They retell the story in detail,” she said.
Reis Thebault (class of 2016), like Padilla, covers breaking news for his employer, The Washington Post. A year in, he’s always looking to add to an ongoing story – whether that’s new context, a new angle or a new voice. “We can be like the fifth place to cover a story,” he said, so it’s imperative to “write them better than other people.” Exploring the human cost of news happenings is key, too. One recent example: When the photo of Salvadoran migrant Oscar Alberto Martinez Ramirez and his 2-year-old daughter, Valeria, went viral, Thebault was part of a team that reported and wrote a profile about their deaths while trying to cross the Rio Grande and enter the United States.
Meanwhile, Cincinnati newsrooms are well served by a bevy of journalists (some alums!) who welcomed us:
- At The Cincinnati Enquirer, reporter Mark Curnutte (Miami ’84) told students he was burned out covering sports by age 31 – and so asked to cover the black community, immigration and social justice issues. “It really changed my life,” he said. “I learned how to be the minority.” Interns Maia Anderson (Miami ’19) and Rachel Berry (Miami ’20), meanwhile, cover whatever their editors ask for. Happily, Anderson likes the longer pieces she’s been assigned on government and business topics – including a profile of Rep. Ayanna Pressley, a member of the so-called Congressional “squad” with ties to Cincinnati. Berry has adopted the Enquirer’s digital-first thinking as she chases mostly crime stories. Being a fast learner helps. When she arrives each day, she said, “I have no idea what I’m going to be doing.”
- At public radio station WVXU-FM, key staffers have followed different paths to success. News director Maryanne Zeleznik (Miami ’83) found her niche in radio as a student and never looked back. Michael Monks, the new host of the station’s weekday Cincinnati Edition program, has radio, TV and web work on his resume. Senior political analyst Howard Wilkinson, meanwhile, parlayed 37 years in newspapering into a second career at 91.7. No matter the medium, “You have to develop sources,” Wilkinson said. “You have to trust them and they have to trust you to find out what’s going on.”
- At Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate, staffers were gearing up to celebrate 70 years of WCPO-TV. Chip Mahaney, now a top recruiter for parent company E.W. Scripps Co., introduced students to the names that made Channel 9 news over the years: Nick Clooney, Al Schoettlekotte, Clyde Gray, Carol Williams, “Uncle” Al Lewis and more. Cool to see many of their pictures enroute to the newsroom. Just six weeks into his newest Scripps job, Mahaney encouraged students to stay in touch. (I think they will!)
- Created in 1967, Cincinnati magazine remains laser-focused on the people and places that make Cincinnati, well, Cincinnati. Editor John Fox pointed to the August issue for proof: Every page features a person or event iconic (or soon to be) to the city, with a cover story on how readers can play tourist in their own hometown. Planning is key for monthlies, Fox said, noting that he was working on ideas for December when we visited. “It’s kind of tricky working that much ahead,” he said.
Alums who rounded out the guest list had equally on-point insights for students.
- At the Associated Press, Amanda Seitz (Miami ’12) is a fact check reporter in the Chicago officer. “Surprising to see how often politicians twist the truth.”
- At the Columbus Dispatch, intern Ceili Doyle has racked up bylines by doing well on assigned pieces and winning a green light for ones she suggests. “You have to figure out a way to push your ideas,” she said.
- Dispatch colleague Bethany Bruner (Miami ’12), meanwhile, reports that stories find her on the police beat. With some five dozen murders so far this year in greater Columbus, the trick is finding time to do the occasional non-crime story. Good news stories – like one, recently, about a police officer marking an elderly victim’s birthday — provide a nice break from crime coverage and win her goodwill with sources, she said.
During their two weeks in Oxford, Media Matters’ scholars got a close-up look at campus. Hoping to see them all again soon — as Miami students.