Building Bridges: SJMC partners with local organizations to enhance student opportunities

By Sarah Howard

SJMC abounds with opportunities for students to transition into the professional realm throughout their education. By participating in these experiences, students generate clips and reels, gain mentors, and learn all about the "real world."

Three new opportunities and a longstanding course offered in honor of two faculty members give SJMC students the opportunity to leave Murphy Hall with full portfolios and industry connections.


A fall 2011 initiative has grown into SJMC's own mini Associated Press. Modeled after a similar service at The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, the Murphy News Service allows students to get assignments from local and outstate newspapers, research, report and write the article and get a byline.

MNS Image web.jpgHeaded up by SJMC Senior Fellow J. Keith Moyer and faculty member Chris Ison, and in partnership with the Minnesota Newspaper Association, the service has recruited more than 20 students enrolled in intermediate reporting and writing classes to become reporters. And response has been overwhelmingly positive.

After a quiet pilot launch in fall 2011, the number of participating papers is growing. To date, the Downtown Journal, St. Cloud Times and the Swift County Monitor-News all ran articles by SJMC students. In spring 2012, additional writers came on board, and ECM Publishers, which recently acquired Sun newspapers, joined the service.

With these connections, students have had more than a dozen bylined articles appear in participating papers. And they have earned an additional credit through a Murphy News Service "internship" connected to their intermediate reporting class.

"With the Murphy News Service, I've stretched my wings as a reporter," said SJMC junior Jeff Hargarten, who has been published in a number of papers and is now working with the Pioneer Press. "I've learned to swim better outside the confines of the University of Minnesota community. Murphy News Service has helped me develop a vast variety of sources and contacts throughout the state."

According to Moyer, it's about getting students to the next step. "The Murphy News Service gets students more experience and more clips sooner so they can get to that next level," he said. "Whether it's our practicum classes or an internship, they are ready for that next step and have work to show."

And editors love the concept. "It's a win-win for all involved," said Sarah McKenzie, editor of the Downtown Journal. "The students get a chance to get clips in a variety of publications throughout the state and get exposure to professionals in the industry. And for papers -- especially small community newspapers -- it's great to be able to count on stories that are polished and professional."

While the Murphy News Service is in early "shaping" stages, Moyer said he believes it will be around for years to come. "I'm proud of what we've accomplished so far," he said. "I'm very optimistic that it'll continue to grow and we'll be able to start including multimedia and audio as well."


It's no surprise that students flock to opportunities in sports. So, in summer 2011, when Gopher Sports came looking for SJMC majors to help with promotions at sporting events, Adjunct Instructor Jerry Broeckert knew that this could be a special partnership.

Gopher Sports.jpgGopher Sports was looking for talented students to take photos and videos of game-day action. After initial conversations, Broeckert suggested that the program become a one-credit internship opportunity for the students. "I saw how this could be a great thing for our students and wanted to take the next step to set that up."

Overseeing the process for Gopher Sports is Ryan Maus, the new media director for Gopher Athletics. "We were looking to recruit students to help with our digital media efforts and this program was conceived and implemented in about a week!" he said.

"Ryan is the right person at the right time for this internship," Broeckert said. "He has a keen understanding of new media and the right patience, attitude and understanding of the students and where they are in their professional development to motivate them and to make this internship a meaningful experience."

Overall, seven students have participated in the internship, shooting and reporting on everything from Gopher football games to basketball and hockey.

"Shooting video at sporting games and events, working under deadline, and having great resources for guidance and direction has enhanced my skills and confidence as a journalist," said Annie Favreau, a senior who shot Wally Shaver's preview for Gopher hockey games. "Shooting this weekly segment helped me to become more confident working with the camera and with professionals in the sports industry."


Moyer's goal when establishing JOUR 4991: Media in the Marketplace? Give students the chance to make connections in the world of media and marketing, and gain detailed insights into the business aspect of media industries. The special topics course was designed for students who want to lead a media organization company, write about the media industry, or learn about advertising sales and marketing.

MN Twins Media Marketplace.jpgOne popular feature of the class is what Moyer dubbed "Talker Tuesday," in which media executives discuss their specific discipline and how they're dealing with the current economy. Students have been exposed to radio, television, magazines, newspapers, online outlets, sports marketing and advertising. In these situations, Moyer says the bridge goes both ways. "Students get the opportunity to meet and network with this person, but these executives also have the chance to learn about our students and see the talent that we have."

On top of hearing executives speak, students have had a chance to visit some high-profile places in the Twin Cities. Field trips have included visits to the offices of Hubbard Broadcasting, Fallon, the Minnesota Twins, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Clear Channel.

"Through these opportunities, students aren't talking to an HR person; they're talking with the high-level executive," Moyer said. "They leave the class with a Rolodex of contacts."


Many newspaper reporters establish their careers within community-news outlets. These weekly papers and websites employ a sizeable portion of journalists in the state and serve as the crucible in which journalistic skills are forged.

The Brovald-Sim Practicum allows students to work in newsrooms of community newspapers across the metro area. Students are placed with a newspaper or news outlet that fits their interests and offered the opportunity to serve as interns in these newsrooms. Once matched in the newsrooms, students may trail an editor for a week or two, but are shortly thereafter put on assignment and given the same duties as a reporter.

"It's a great way to get feedback about your writing," said Lyssa Hansen (B.A., '11), who wrote for Northfield News and Girlfriend's Magazine in fall 2011. "I produced a lot of clips, wrote a feature story, took photographs, shot video and made connections," she said.

The class is team-taught by Lee Ann Schutz Wahi, the editor and assistant director of the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services, and Joni Berg, a graphic designer and reporter at Northfield News.

"We are really fortunate to have two great instructors who go above and beyond to make sure students get the most out of the practicum," said Ty Sosina (B.A., '11), who wrote for in fall 2011. "I got published work and real-life experience in the field, which is always a plus."

The class was created in 1991 in honor of SJMC faculty members Walter H. Brovald and John Cameron Sim. Brovald joined the SJMC faculty in 1968, acted as adviser for student publications, and had worked as an editor and publisher of the Cadott Sentinel, a weekly in rural Wisconsin. Sim, who retired in 1981, taught at SJMC for 25 years, was a leading expert in community press and wrote "Grass Roots Press: America's Weekly Newspapers." The Brovald-Sim Fund was established to honor these two longstanding community-news advocates and to provide financial support for students in the practicum.

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This page contains a single entry by showard published on August 23, 2012 2:02 PM.

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