First dispatches from the student newsroom

First dispatches from the student newsroom

Day one in the ONA Student Newsroom and Innovation Lab was a frenetic hive of activity.  Students, mentors and visitors came and went all day.


Just like a newsroom, each day begins with a story meeting and a look at the day’s agenda. Student reporters are asked to volunteer for coverage assignments and shifts on newsroom tasks, such as social media producer or on-call photographer.

The site launched with a handful of personal essays written in advanced by a small group of our students who were asked to reflect on the experiences that brought them to love journalism. It didn’t take long, however for the next stories to begin appearing.

On day one, I worked with students on two projects that were finalized and published the next morning:

  1. An article about the first of many diversity-themed discussions on the conference agenda. She correctly identified that it was a major theme on this year’s schedule, especially where minority communities intersect with social media. The student doggedly interviewed every member of panel to add unique new thoughts to her report. My role was to work with her on focusing the angle and editing the story.
  2. Imagery to illustrate an article about the large and diverse group of candidates running for seats on the ONA Board of Directors. In this example, managers decided to cover the event and my role was to organize the students to accomplish the coverage. Once they gathered the event, I worked with two students to set an angle and then we split up for the production. I worked with one on the imagery, showing her Photoshop functions, while another mentor worked with a student on the text.

On day two, after a private presentation from CNN and Instagram, the rate of publishing stories really took off. Both of the items above were finished and featured on the home page for a time.

After putting the finishing touches on the diversity story, my mentee went to work building a story out of her notes and tweets from a special fireside chat with Dan Rather. She shared the key messages and takeaways from the emotional and memorable discussion.

As mentors, we’re working hard to push our students to create quality content that their audience (attendees) would want to consume. We’re setting deadlines and coaching the students to meet them, take a deep breath and then move on to the next event.

Overall, it’s exhausting for both mentors and mentees, but I’m excited to see them succeeding, networking and learning.

22 ONA candidates vie for 6 spots