After a pandemic break in 2020, Media Matters resumed in 2021 with a small but mighty group of would-be journalists.
Five students joined me in Williams Hall for seven days in the classroom – and one, action-packed field trip to Cincinnati.
As in past years, news professionals, locally and beyond, were extremely generous in giving up time to chat with the Media Matters’ crew. (Keep reading for a round-up from this year’s guest list!)
And the 2021 Summer Scholars came through, too, with great profiles of fellow Scholars, other Scholars’ courses, and staff/faculty/guests of Media Matters. Hope you’ll open their pages to see their work.
Four of the five 2020 Media Matters students hail from Ohio, with one in California:
- Nina Kneitel, 16, will be a senior at Mira Loma High School in Gold River, California, near Sacramento, this fall. She puts maximum time into academics, particularly classes in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. She loved Social and Cultural Anthropology last year and is looking forward to Theory of Knowledge and Global Studies as a senior. She’ll also complete a community college psychology class in the year ahead, with a part-time job at Blaze Pizza, a West Coast chain.
- Lillian Malone, 17, will be a senior at Westerville South High School, in the Columbus area. A dedicated traveler, Malone has visited about 40 of the 50 U.S. states and 10 other countries. In school, she runs track and cross country; participates in competitive sailing; serves as artistic director in her theater program; helps lead Girls Support Girls; and also participates in her school’s IB program.
- Miranda Tejeda, 16, is heading into junior year at Cincinnati’s Sycamore High School, where theater (17 shows so far!) is a major interest. Later this summer she’ll be in a production of “Something Rotten” and counts the role of Flotsam in “Little Mermaid” as her favorite. She has years of dance lessons and competitions on her resume and currently works part-time as a family’s nanny.
- Olivia Robinson, 16, will enter her junior year at Wellington School in Columbus this fall. She devotes time outside of class to soccer, diving and track; a part-time job at Raising Cane’s; and Ginger, her family’s 6-year-old Staffordshire terrier. Earlier this summer, she visited Hawaii with a friend’s family. She is looking forward to a podcasting class in the year ahead and hopes to join yearbook after that as a photographer.
- Erin Sturgeon, 17, will be a senior at Notre Dame Academy in Toledo this fall. Tennis is her No. 1 extra-curricular – she’s been playing for 10 or 12 years — with a summer job since June at her tennis club, Twos Athletic Club. The Sturgeon family Airedale terriers (Quinn, 4, and Kenzie, 10) also keep her busy.
Dr. Bruce Drushel, chair of the Department of Media, Journalism & Film, kicked off our guest list, providing an overview of MJF programs. The department’s love of travel programs dates back about 50 years, he noted, with a marketing and communication program then called Laws Hall & Associates. Inside Washington is MJF’s second-oldest travel option, created by Dr. Howard Kleiman in 1999 and under the director of Prof. Annie-Laurie Blair since 2019. Washington is ripe with Miami alumni, attracted to the “very young town with lots of smart grads,” Drushel noted, with other attractive MJF options in New York, Hollywood, Chicago and London.
Tim Carlin and Briah Lumpkins, rising JRN seniors at Miami, joined us via Zoom to explain their jobs at The Miami Student. As editor-in-chief, Carlin oversees the full staff and production. After taking over in April, he decided the paper would print just once a month (instead of once a week) beginning this fall to more fully embrace 24/7 online news production. Lumpkins, as managing editor, works with section editors and reporters to make sure story assignments go out and stories come back in. They’ll both bring lots of real-world learning back to their newsroom come fall – with Carlin interning at The Columbus Dispatch, and Lumpkins at The Cincinnati Enquirer.
Day Two’s three guests were alums who opted for journalism graduate school after leaving Miami:
- Reis Thebault (’16) went west to the University of California Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. That landed him at the Washington Post, where he’s been a breaking news reporter for three years and will soon start an assignment in Brussels.
- Mariel Padilla (’17) went east to Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, then won a year-long fellowship at The New York Times before finding her way to Austin, Texas-based The 19th, a new online news outlet focused on the intersection of gender, policy and politics.
- Emily Dattilo (’21) starts at Columbia in a few weeks, capping off a successful run through Miami, including a summer 2020 internship with the Cape Cod Times.
Like journalists everywhere, the three have mostly worked at home since COVID-19 arrived in March 2020. “It honestly felt like the world was ending,” Padilla said, explaining The Times’ heightened attention to the pandemic. “They even called in a therapist to talk to all of us reporters about how to chill.” The 19th is a bit less of a pressure-cooker, Padilla noted, as is living back in Indiana (for now) with family.
On Day Three, Miami alum Céilí Doyle (’20) returned to Williams Hall with two Columbus Dispatch colleagues to tell students about “Descendants of Hope,” their ambitious June project about the role of Ripley, Ohio, in the underground railroad. They landed the story with the help of author (and sometime Miami journalism instructor) Ann Hagedorn, a Ripley resident – and added to its value with a multi-media approach that included oral history audio clips, deep historical research and portraits created with tintype photo processes. As they informed their audience, the journalists also picked up new language knowledge – specifically about why “enslaved persons” is preferred to “slaves” and “freedom seekers” to “fugitives.”
We got a two-fer when WCPO-TV anchor/reporter Kristyn Hartman joined us via Zoom. As she walked through the Cincinnati ABC-affiliate’s newsroom, she recruited colleague Clyde Gray to join the conversation. Her advice to aspiring journalism students: Put your viewer “right there.” Learn and learn fast. Keep reporting, even if you win an anchor job. Gray’s: Don’t take no for an answer. Keep pushing. Find mentors. Hartman, who joined WCPO in 2017 after jobs with six other stations, acknowledged that the TV business can be capricious. “You have to be really confident in the work you produce,” she said. “You can only control your commitment to good journalism.”
As an associate producer on ABC-TV’s “20/20,” Greta Morris (Miami ’17) can stomach the old “cold crime” stories she works on pretty well. Getting pulled into current crime stories is more “mentally and emotionally taxing,” she noted, pointing to the Derek Chauvin trial in April. Repeated viewing of video depicting Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for more than 9 minutes – which prompted a murder conviction for the former Minneapolis police officer – was far more difficult. “The older cases are definitely easier to work on,” Morris said. And, happily, not all “20/20” stories are crime-focused. Her fave? One about country music icon Dolly Parton – with a reporting trip to Tennessee’s Dollywood. “I just fell in love with her,” she said.
Mariah Schlossmann (Miami ’17) knows first-hand the challenge of arriving in New York as a freelance journalist. That was her job title from fall 2017 to July 2019, when she signed on to Hearst Corp. as editorial business assistant at Cosmopolitan and Women’s Health magazines. Freelancers must be “super self-motivated” and OK with not knowing when the next paycheck will arrive, Schlossmann said. On the upside, she learned to hustle and network – which eventually connected her with Miami alums who connected her with Hearst. Now inside, she’s been able to add some writing assignments to her business duties. Bonus: occasional shopping trips in HQ “beauty closets” for great deals on stockpiled products that editors no longer need.
Always love visiting Cincinnati newsrooms with Summer Scholars — and this year was no exception:
- At the Cincinnati Enquirer, Miami grads Madeline Mitchell (’19) and Erin Glynn (’20) welcomed us to the 19th floor. They were able to parlay internships with the Enquirer into full-time reporting jobs — Mitchell right after graduation as a breaking news reporter and more recently education reporter; Glynn as a brand-new reporter in a dual role of covering news from Butler, Warren and Clermont counties for the Enquirer and Report for America. Both are expected to dig up most of their own assignments — which means they need to keep their ears to the ground pretty much all the time.
- At WVXU-FM, Cincinnati’s NPR affiliate, News Director Maryanne Zeleznik (’83) is the queen of multi-tasking. She hosts NPR’s “Morning Edition” show five days a week, leads on-air fundraising, oversees a reporting team of about a dozen journalists — and, oh, conducts tours for visiting Summer Scholars! Fun fact: If her voice is strained, a hot drink usually clears it up. In 40 years, she’s only lost her voice in full one time.
- After lunch at Cincinnati’s iconic Findlay Market, we met up with Cincinnati Enquirer veteran Sharon Coolidge at Cincinnati City Hall. Coolidge proved her mettle, satisfying cautious security guards by finding us a last-minute tour guide and then expertly navigating an interruption while we chatted on the steps of the building. Coolidge, like Zeleznik, has a deep resume, with years covering cops and courts helping inform her coverage of city government and her role as co-host of the weekly “That’s So Cincinnati” podcast.
- Austin Fast (’10), the Roy W. Howard Investigative Fellow with National Public Radio, sure gets around. When we chatted with him, he was just back from a trip to Washington, D.C., NPR’s headquarters. But he’s mostly working from home in Phoenix, where he completed graduate school at Arizona State University in 2020. Since leaving his hometown of Haviland, Ohio (population: 200) and making his mark at Miami, he’s worked in Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, California, Cincinnati, Alaska and Florida. He’ll likely have another new address when he completes his yearlong fellowship – hoping either for a spot with NPR in DC or with an affiliate station elsewhere. Curiosity has been the constant in his career, he told students. “To be a journalist, you have to be relentless in asking questions. Be curious all the time and observe what’s around you.”
As our eight days together came to an end, these journalists-in-training carried on a long Summer Scholars tradition — sharing a summary of their reporting work with the full cohort at a closing dinner. Couldn’t be prouder of the small-but-mighty Media Matters 2021 Reporting Corps, and hope to see them as Miami students in a year or two.