Journalism students get real world experience on Goat Hill

Posted: Friday, 17 May 2013

Troy University journalism students get a dose of the real thing in Steve Stewart's advanced reporting class.

Their assignment: write a legislative story for an Alabama newspaper.

Sponsored by the Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation, the third-year program includes taking students from the Hall School of Journalism and Communication to the State House on a legislative committee day. There the student journalists attend committee meetings and hearings, and meet with Capitol reporters, lobbyists, legislators and legislative staffers.

The hook is that each student has to select an Alabama newspaper, contact its editor and offer to write the story as assigned. They then have to deal with the editor through the publishing process.

“As a student, you learn a lot by actually going outside the classroom and seeing the ‘real world,' instead of just reading textbooks and sitting in class every day," said Cecilia Thorngren, a print journalism major with a creative writing minor from Floda, Sweden.

Thorngren worked with editors at “The Southeast Sun" newspaper in Enterprise.

“I got to experience what it's like to work under a deadline and what it's like to work with an editor. That's something I couldn't have learned in the classroom," she said.

Stewart said that experience was precisely the point of the exercise.

“Students learn a lot from this project, including how the Legislature works, the difficulty of contacting and working with editors and legislators, and the need to keep working on a story until it's ready to publish," said Stewart, himself a long-time newspaper editor and publisher.

Some students even get follow-up assignments and internships from editors, and all get news clippings they can use in job hunts.

“It gives us visibility with the public and goodwill with the Press Association," Stewart said. “For the APA Journalism Foundation, it's a small expense with a high return."

The Alabama Press Association Journalism Foundation began in 1968, and from its beginnings, has supported journalism education in the state. The Foundation's board meets annually to select grants that support college journalism programs, workshops, an annual job fair, scholarships and internships.