The NewsHouse won 75 awards for student journalism in the last academic year. But students say it’s the opportunities, not the accolades, that make them want to work there.
When senior magazine major Amanda Paule went to a meeting for The NewsHouse’s Borderlines project she didn’t know what to expect. As a first-year student with no high school newspaper or journalism classes, she didn’t think that her pitch on Quebec nationalism would get accepted, let alone that she would be working with a graduate student on the story.
Paule is one of several Newhouse students who have won awards for work with The NewsHouse. She says she wishes she knew in high school that opportunities like this existed.
“It is a program that has changed my whole career trajectory. It’s exactly what I was looking for in terms of what I wanted to [do] in college,” Paule says.
The NewsHouse is student-run digital media outlet housed at the Newhouse School. Students produce, edit and publish content for the outlet with guidance from Newhouse professors. Stories and projects hosted at thenewshouse.com have won numerous awards for everything from home page website design to TV sports coverage. While The NewsHouse primarily covers Syracuse University, annual projects also go deeper into selected topics.
Borderlines, which explored the tensions around the U.S.-Canada border, was one of those projects. Thirty-six of the over 50 students who worked on the project traveled to the Canadian border in 2018 and returned with a breadth of stories told from both American and Canadian perspectives.
The 2019 project, High Stakes, covered the possible effects of marijuana legalization in New York state. Last year’s project, Deconstructing the Divide, explored inequality in the city of Syracuse and the activism addressing it.
Magazine, news, and digital (MND) journalism professor of practice Jon Glass is the executive producer of The NewsHouse. He says that while he chooses the project topic, it’s the students who take the initiative to pursue stories.
“That’s how I’ve always tried to structure The NewsHouse: provide the opportunities and see who can rise to the occasion,” Glass says.
For Paule, it is those opportunities that makes The NewsHouse so unique.
“They said, ‘Pitch anything that you want to pitch.’ That’s an opportunity you don’t always get, especially as starting journalists, because usually it’s, ‘You have to report on this project because that’s what we have for the day,'” Paule says. “With The Newshouse, all the opportunities are yours. Just pick.”
Paule has worked on every major NewsHouse project since she joined the organization during her first year at Newhouse. She says the ability to do long-form investigative work, like her AEJMC Award-winning article on Syracuse’s 15th ward, work in multiple mediums and work in teams has been incredibly valuable. However, it is the support from professors like Glass that keeps Paule coming back.
“I improved my journalism [by] leaps and bounds just [from] having all of that support,” Paule says. “It helped to crystallize that I’d be interested in pursuing a career working on these longer investigative projects.”
For those not interested in the larger projects, The NewsHouse offers other opportunities, including expanding on class work; photography senior Cole Strong was able to turn a class assignment into an award-winning story for The NewsHouse.
After Strong completed a documentary for his Video and Photography class, associate professor Seth Gitner urged Strong to pitch it to The NewsHouse. Glass ended up publishing Strong’s documentary and submitting it to the Broadcast Educators Association Festival of Media Arts and the White House News Photographers Association Eyes of History student contest, and the work won won awards in both cases.
Strong is thankful to The NewsHouse and Glass for submitting his documentary because it gave him the confidence and credibility to pursue video work.
“It just made me go, ‘Okay, I can do this,'” Strong says. “I’ve actually talked with a couple of people in some companies that I really like and some of the people have been like, ‘This video you made won these awards? Wow, that’s really cool.'”
Glass says whether the work comes from classes or projects, the quality reflects the way the Newhouse school teaches students.
“There are hundreds or thousands of stories written every year in classes and not all of them will necessarily get published, but it’s great that we were able to identify them, and students show interest and are motivated to work on them even more,” Glass says. “There seems like an endless number of opportunities, and the students who not only take advantage of them but work hard, get rewarded with recognition.”
However, Paule and Strong didn’t work with the NewsHouse for the chance for recognition and awards. They did it because they valued the learning and storytelling opportunities.
“The NewsHouse was a place that took us in as journalists with little or no journalism experience, allowed us to pitch stories, met us where we were and then taught us how to get to where we wanted to go,” Paule says.
Elizabeth Joan Kauma is a junior in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.