Wittenberg’s journalism program may still be in its infancy, but its students are thinking big. In June, seven students participated in a four-week Journalism Institute to create a magazine about Chicago, doing everything from interviewing city residents and business owners to writing stories and designing the pages for the magazine.
After witnessing the tremendous success of last year’s Summer Screenwriters Institute, Associate Professor of English D’Arcy Fallon and Professor of English and Department Chair Cynthia Richards began thinking about a similar program for journalism students.
“We just thought how neat it would be if we did a journalism institute like the film institute,” Fallon said. “We decided the magazine would be about Chicago because we have a lot of alumni living there who have a profession in the field of journalism. We figured they could help mentor the students with their stories while they were there.”
The students traveled to Chicago for one week, where they set up their own interviews. According to Alissa Wachman ’12, from Crystal Lake, Ill., the task of handling all of the elements of interviewing was one of the most important educational components of the institute.
“Being in Chicago we were able to fully practice this as if it were our actual career,” Wachman said. “We had to set up the interviews ourselves, find our way to where we were actually doing the interviews, and then find our way back. There was no one babying us.”
Fallon, who handled all of the instruction for the institute, agreed.
“One of the best things that happened was going to Chicago,” Fallon said. “Students were able to take this more seriously. This magazine is not just ’go pretend to be a journalist and interview a professor here at Witt;’ it’s real-life journalism and going to Chicago made it so.”
Wachman said the experience helped her get a better feel for the journalism field.
“I hadn’t done much feature writing before this class, and I now have a more positive outlook on journalism,” Wachman said. “I may even consider it as a possible career.”
It’s not just the students who have a more positive outlook. The institute has made Fallon more excited as well.
“Watching these students, I’ve come to realize that anything is possible if you are willing to learn and try hard,” Fallon said. “I’m really encouraged by what we’ve accomplished in this institute.”