Collegian provides on-the-job training in journalism
Although Kenyon doesn't offer a degree in journalism or communications, the editors of the Collegian, Kenyon's weekly student newspaper, believe the College is preparing them for careers in a way that parallels what the country's finest schools of journalism have to offer.
The debate over whether good journalists are produced by a solid liberal-arts background or training in journalism school has ebbed and flowed for decades, but for such student journalists as Kristen Filipic '98, David Shargel '99, and Benjamin Vore '99, the answer is clear: Kenyon is giving them access to an academic curriculum that has a longer-lasting value than what they would receive from a journalism school at a large university.
"I didn't want to go to a big university and learn only about journalism," says Collegian coeditor Vore, an English major from State College, Pennsylvania. "I knew that at Kenyon, with its excellent literary reputation, I could learn a lot about writing and still expose myself to a liberal-arts education."
While students at large schools of journalism may be writing for daily newspapers, working on investigative stories, covering breaking news, and receiving college credit or even being paid for their work, those concerns aren't at issue for the Collegian editors.
"The work I do for the Collegian is strictly for the love of journalism," says Shargel, a native of New York City who aspires to a career in journalism.
All of the editors and writers for the Collegian work for no pay or academic credit. The paper's staff has an average of eight to twelve people who put it together each week and an average of eighty contributors throughout the year.
"As a freshman, I covered the biggest campus story of the year," Filipic recalls. "That wouldn't have happened if I'd gone to Northwestern or Ohio State."
Filipic, for whom graduation is only months away, is uncertain about her career goals, but she says journalism is a definite possibility. Regardless of her immediate plans, she thinks her newspaper experience at Kenyon has been excellent. Filipic has worked for the paper since her first year at the College, and last summer she worked as a copy-editing intern at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio. The internship was part of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund's internship program.
"When I talked to journalists," Filipic remembers, "some of them would say I'm doing the right thing by getting a broad, liberal-arts background. Others would ask why I'm not in a journalism school." As one of two interns out of fifteen in the group who was not enrolled in journalism courses, Filipic says she "held her own" and believes her ecision to attend Kenyon is the best choice she could have made.
Elizabeth "Beth" Bennett '96, who is now a general-assignment reporter for an NBC affiliate in Traverse City, Michigan, worked on the Collegian during all four years at Kenyon, serving as an editor during her junior and senior years. She went on to earn a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism (one of the country's top-ranked programs) in June 1997.
When she interviewed for her job in Michigan, Bennett recalls, the news director mistakenly thought she'd gotten a bachelor's degree from Medill and wanted to know why she'd wasted her money studying journalism. Bennett, though, believes her studies at Medill gave her valuable skills--and a name that helps get her foot in the door for job interviews.
In fact, she says she got the best of both worlds. "Kenyon taught me to think. People need to learn about life in college, not just about journalism."
While working for the Collegian, Bennett offers, she received excellent instruction from the paper's advisor, Cy Wainscott. "Cy is one of the best mentors a student could have. He taught me a lot about ethics and basic principles of journalism," she says. "To me, that's what Kenyon is all about: good teaching."
For Vore, issues of journalistic skills and real-life experience versus the classroom aren't as important as just plain fun. He says the thing he's enjoyed the most about working on the Collegian is the fulfillment he's found in producing it. One of his major goals has been to make the paper something the community looks forward to each week.
While the three editors agree administrators can occasionally be more reticent than they might like about certain issues, they see this as a universal problem on college and university campuses. They are happy, however, that the administration respects the publication's right to free speech. "President Oden really goes the extra mile--whether that means encouraging Collegian staff members to call him at home, or giving us the number to his cellular telephone when he's traveling," says Filipic.
Some weeks, the Collegian's editors may find themselves up until 5:00 a.m. on Thursday (when the paper appears), but they think it's worth it when the final product arrives. "Working on the Collegian is time consuming, but I'm able to maintain a separation between that and my coursework and activities," says Shargel, who is majoring in religion. "It's a good example of how broad an education I'm receiving at Kenyon."
Filipic, a philosophy major from Columbus, Ohio, wouldn't change a thing about her four years with the paper. If class credit or paychecks were offered for work on the Collegian, she says it would change the entire nature of what they are trying to accomplish. "When you do something without xternal motivation, you do it because you like it," she says. "I see journalism as a public service. There are stories that have needed to be told at Kenyon, and I've been able to tell them. That's why I'm here."
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