By Zoey Barnes, Natalie Hammers, Harrison Larner and Kenya Wilson
For the past 47 years, students from all over the world have traveled to the heart of Missouri to spend a week learning about the journalism world — from brainstorming a story package to calling in the Dean of the J-School for an interview. Whether one travels one mile or 3,150, each student seizes an unbeatable opportunity at the Missouri Urban Journalism Workshop.
“We want to get students excited for the program in high school, then keep the excitement into the J-School and finally into the industry, to grow the diverse population in the industry,” says Ron Kelley, the executive director for Student Development and Diversity and Inclusion for the Missouri School of Journalism. “To do this, we reach out to students in high school and recruit them to become more excited about the industry, and one way to do that is to invite students to MUJW.”
The 2017 workshop has drastically changed from former years. Workshoppers were assigned to teams of four students to produce one multimedia package instead of working by themselves to craft two stories over one topic.
“We changed to groups because multimedia journalism is now the way of the world,” said Anna Romero, MUJW director. “When you have a bigger group of students, it made more sense to have smaller groups with a mentor.”
This change allowed students to work in a variety of mediums, including print, photography and broadcast.
One aspect that continued from past years was that students were assigned a specific topic to cover. In the past years, students have produced stories over “Our Changing Environment,” “Food for the Future” and most recently “Diversity and Divisions.”
The topic for this year, “Technology and Innovation,” came from Columbia Missourian editors Laura Johnston and Jeanne Abbott. They wanted to choose a topic that was newsworthy, but not seen as much in the news. They also made sure that the stories produced can be turned into a multimedia package within the week workshoppers are present.
However, this week was a hard one for campers and their pursuit to create stories. At the beginning of the week The New York Times released an article about the University of Missouri regarding the racial gap on the campus in the past years. With 95 percent of the campus population Caucasian, this caused a stir for everyone in connection to the university.
Not only did the article put everyone on high alert, but the recent layoffs and budget cuts made it difficult to complete interviews. As a result, everyone employed by the university, and not with the MUJW program, was afraid to talk to our young journalists in the case that they might lose their job.
In an empowerment conversation with the students of MUJW, Dean David Kurpius encouraged students to be the best journalist they can be, regardless of the situation and resistance.
For instance, some MUJW students were told they couldn’t take photos at The Mizzou Store. This year was the first time MUJW students faces such challenges in conducting interviews on campus, Kurpius said. His advice: Don’t take no for an answer.
“This is a great lesson,” he said. “Ask for the supervisor, and when the supervisor says, ‘No.’ Keep going. You shouldn’t have to be a dean to get people in and get coverage.”
The future for MUJW is looking bright. Kelley says he would like to see more students attend the workshop. This year’s attendance was an all-time high, with more than double the previous year’s attendance.
“We want to promote journalism among young people — make it bigger and better,” he said. “The idea is to expose students to opportunities in the journalism industry.”
Ideas are yet to be finalized for next year’s MUJW, but it is clear that administration wishes for the program to grow in the years to come. When asked how many people administration plans to let into the program next year, Kelley says administration is trying to see what their capacity is.
“If we have 100 students (next year), and they can’t all come together, maybe they could split it up into two weeks,” Kelley said. “We’ll have to find the best way to do that.”
As for next year’s theme and format, there is no telling what the workshop’s set up will be. This year was a little bit of an experiment, with implementing group work instead of individual projects.
The consensus of the students in the workshop this year is a thumbs up to group work. It allows the journalism students to get a feel for various types of journalism as well as still have the opportunity to do collaborative projects.
The Missouri Urban Journalism Workshop is a strong stepping stone for students who wish to enter the field of journalism. The future holds great things for the growing program and for the promising students who attend.