Journalism student remodels Detroit community with help of nonprofit organization

Posted on: October 21, 2016

Some people have big dreams but don’t have the confidence or power to bring them to life. However, for third year journalism student Hakeem Weatherspoon, he didn’t let doubt get in the way of making his idea a reality. After growing up in Detroit, Weatherspoon has always tried to think of ways to revitalize his neighborhood. This past summer, his hope for change led to a partnership with Life Remodeled.

Starting from scratch

Weatherspoon and his friends came up with the idea of bringing Life Remodeled to their community while they were in high school.

“My peers and I really decided that there was never a place to play when (we were) growing up,” said Weatherspoon, who believes that children who play together, grow together. “I hope that it will lessen the crime in the area. Children will be more happy in the long run.”

Life Remodeled is a nonprofit based in Detroit that selects a different neighborhood every year in which to invest money, labor, and materials. Offering $5 million dollars worth of efforts every year, the organization’s  mission strives to repair and restore these areas.

Over the summer, Weatherspoon and Life Remodeled  began to rebuild the Denby neighborhood, one of the most violent in the country, according to Weatherspoon. In just six days, starting on August 1, 2016, the transformation began at Skinner Park, but spread throughout the city impacting 300 more blocks and properties.

“It feels like anything is possible if you put the work in and follow through,” said Weatherspoon. “That's why I tell the younger people back at home ‘never let anybody tell you that you can't do anything. You are a dreamer so dream big.’”

How it went down

Around 10,700 volunteers dedicated their time to bring the residents of the community together as one. The Life Remodeled group made the results worth the long commitment. Skinner Park now has a performance pavilion with solar panels and a water catchment system, two basketball courts, a volleyball court, a pickleball court, a putting green and two horseshoe pits. In addition, 362 houses have been boarded up, 80 homes have been remodeled, safe pathways to school are now demarcated.

Weatherspoon said it was amazing to see the difference that the new additions and restorations made in the community.

“The hardest thing in my perspective was the beautification process, simply, because you never realize how dirty your room is until you clean it up!” said Weatherspoon.

Life Remodeled will continue to contribute to the Detroit mission, even though this specific project is finished.

Communication is key

Weatherspoon credits ComArtSci for giving him the voice and communication skills to execute his vision efficiently. He believes that the professors helped him to get his foot in the door toward achieving success with this project.

“In order to get funding there is a business aspect and communication allows that function to happen,” said Weatherspoon. “You have to communicate to the community, corporations, and outside people in order to get more volunteers. You also have the media in the town to speak to, so that plays a role in heavy communication!”

Weatherspoon continued to say that his main hope has been to lessen the crime and show that there is more to Detroit than its history and violence.

For more information on the 2016 Life Remodeled project, visit here.

By Emmy Virkus

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State News experience leads to internship in Colorado newsroom

Posted on: September 29, 2016

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Journalism senior Jake Allen spent his summer as a news intern at the Colorado Springs Gazette. Today, he is back in East Lansing for his senior year at MSU as the editor-in-chief of The State News.

The State News prepared me really well before I got to the Colorado Springs Gazette,” Allen said. “During my internship, I learned how to be a better writer. They had me work on better introductions and I had the chance to strengthen my storytelling.”

Allen said the skills he learned over the summer in Colorado helped prepare him for his new leadership position at the student newspaper.

Operations at the Colorado Springs Gazette were similar to what he was used to at The State News, just on a larger scale. The story topics were different, the place was different, but MSU’s collegiate newspaper prepared him well for the interviews he had to conduct and the stories he had to craft.

A great aspect of having an internship at the Colorado Springs Gazette, for Allen, was that the full time employees treated the interns like part of the team. He got to chase the stories he was assigned, pitch stories, and cover high profile stories that landed his name on the front page.

“One of my favorite stories to cover was when I got to go to the Air Force Academy for the new cadets day,” Allen said. “It got pretty intense. There was a lot of yelling and a lot of intimidation, but it was also an amazing story to write.”

When Allen first started to apply for summer internships, he knew that he wanted to find one outside of Michigan. He said the Colorado Springs Gazette was the one that worked out the best for him. Allen felt living out west would be a great experience.

His advice for other students would be to reach for out of state, or dream, internships, because they are attainable if you work at it.

“Apply to as many internships as you can,” Allen said. “Obviously it is important to make sure you are still sending in quality applications, but definitely put yourself out there while still focusing on the details. Make sure that you’re sending in the best application you can.”

What helped Allen during  the process was following up with contacts for the internships that he was applying. He said he was particularly persistent with the Colorado Springs Gazette, because he knew it would be a great summer opportunity.

He advises journalism students to really take advantage of some of their first journalism classes, such as JRN 200 and JRN 300, noting that he wouldn’t have gotten his start at The State News without basic clips from these classes.

“Through the whole internship process, I learned that it’s not that hard moving to a new place, making friends and starting a new job,” Allen said. “Definitely be open to new places and new opportunities during school and after graduation, too.”

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Internship with WKAR radio drives passion for sports journalism

Posted on: September 9, 2016

isaaconstansWhile growing up, ‘sports’ for senior Isaac Constans meant asking his dad, “What do you think the chances are of me becoming a professional basketball player?" Constans has always loved basketball, however, when he came to MSU, he put his talent for writing and love of sports into the other side of sports production.

Constans is a journalism senior and as an engineer and cohost of WKAR’s Current Sports with Al Martin, he prepares show layouts, edits audio and discusses all things sports on the segment.

Constans is enjoying his opportunity to have a speaking role on a sports radio show as an intern. Knowing his radio audience is something that Constans has picked up on quickly, referring to the fact that you have to be careful of crossing the line on radio talk shows. He has learned to back up his arguments and developed thicker skin because of the experience.

“I actually really enjoy giving my opinion on the show,” Constans said. “You really are free to express yourself. One of my favorite aspects of print journalism is the column side; anything to do with community messages is important to me.”

He first learned about the opportunity at WKAR Public Media from Michigan State University through one of his journalism professors and worked his way into roles with more responsibility. The School of Journalism and Constans’ professors have helped him achieve his goals, make connections and prepare for a career after internships.

One thing Constans wasn’t expecting to learn is the strategic process that goes into making each radio show possible. Through his internship, he is involved with the research required to have a well-rounded discussion that will connect with their audience.

“I had to learn to find a way to organize the material for discussion,” Constans said. “There is a lot that goes into it behind the scenes and I had no idea journalism could be so multifaceted.”

Constans originally wanted to gain print experience and said he found himself loving the radio side of journalism at WKAR. He can put his writing, personality and verbal communication skills into the success of the show.

Trying everything and getting involved with things you are passionate about is Constans’ advice to younger journalism students.

“Make sure you are available when any opportunity arises; you will learn so much,” Constans said. “Getting honest feedback and knowing the common triumphs and struggles of your organization is key.”

Through his internship at WKAR, Constans learned that he wanted to pursue a career in radio sports journalism.

“WKAR opened up a whole new avenue of sports journalism for me,” Constans said. “I can express myself, my personality and my presence through radio. I had never really thought about that option before, but I realized how important this skill is in the realm of communication.”

By Meg Dedyne

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JRN student shares ‘Faces of Flint’ portraits at Mid-SURE

Posted on: August 17, 2016

hannah brenner1

Over the last year, the Flint Water Crisis has gained national news attention. And while much is known about the government missteps that led to the contamination of Flint's public water supply, how much is actually known about the families and residents of Flint whose lives have been affected by the crisis?  

Journalism student Hannah Brenner used her talents as an aspiring photojournalist to capture the people of Flint’s stories in a way that the news has not.

She took portraits of people at various locations in the Flint area, including the Brennan Senior Center. Her portraits are a part of the “Faces of Flint” series by WKAR and the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

“The goal was to capture these people’s' spirits and show them as not just victims of the water crisis but individuals,” Brenner said.

Brenner recently shared her portraits at the Mid-Michigan Symposium for Undergraduate Research Experiences (Mid-SURE), which took place in July at Spartan Stadium. The symposium offers students from MSU and other institutions the opportunity to present their work to peers and faculty.

The response was overwhelmingly positive,” Brenner said. “Many people stopped and asked questions about the subjects of my photos. That was the goal for me, to not present on the water crisis but the people affected.”

Looking ahead, Brenner said she is far from finished with the people of Flint. She has plans to return to the senior center to visit with the seniors again.

“I am very taken with the seniors there and I want to expand on that part of the project,” said Brenner. “I will also be expanding my networks and trying to reach more residents to profile.”

To find out more about the “Faces of Flint” series, click here.

By Savannah Swix

 

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Internship at CONAN leads journalism junior to dream internship at Jimmy Fallon

Posted on: April 7, 2016

Emma-Jean Bedford - Production Intern at CONAN 2015 Pic 1 2 PrintCalifornia native Emma-Jean Bedford dreams of being a producer at a late night show one day. The journalism junior has already landed two production internships, one at CONAN in Los Angeles last summer, and the second working on the set of The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon in New York City this summer.

Bedford got her start in broadcasting in high school. She worked her way through reporting and directing before she started producing. When she came to MSU, she decided entertainment news was a better fit for her outgoing personality.

“Entertainment news is fun and we still get a point across,” she said.

As a production intern at CONAN, Bedford helped with everything from researching guests to preparing the stage for rehearsals. She learned about all the pieces that go on behind the scenes in order to put a show together as one cohesive unit.

Her most memorable time on-the-job was the two weeks the show moved to San Diego for Comic-Con. Bedford was promoted to production assistant and got to take on more responsibility.

“We basically had to move the entire production to another city,” Bedford said. She made decisions about the layout of the studio, like choosing Conan’s dressing room and designing the route guests would take to the stage.

“I was really excited. I had the opportunity to voice my input and they listened,” she said.

Bedford said her experience at CONAN helped her get the internship with Jimmy Fallon this summer.

“I would not have secured these two internships if I didn’t come to Michigan State,” Bedford said. “If it wasn’t for the people here that believe in me and encourage me to do what they believe I can do, I don’t know where I would be.”

In connection with her internships, Bedford received the Adrienne M. Johns Communication Arts and Sciences Internship Award and the Bonnie Bucqueroux Memorial Fund Scholarship.

Bedford offered up some advice for her fellow ComArtSci students who are looking for work experiences: network.

“You need to make sure they know who you are,” she said. She also encouraged students to use the resources available to them, like career advising in room 181 ComArtSci.

She also said it’s important to be willing to try anything.

“Always commit and if you have a question later, figure it out,” she said.

By Kelsey Block

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Journalism Student Explores Internships in Every Medium

Posted on: February 19, 2016

Krista Wilson

Journalism sophomore Krista Wilson started gaining work experiences early on in her college career. The fall of her freshman year at MSU, she already had lined up an internship with City Pulse as a reporter. She spent her first semester on campus covering all kinds of stories – from Lansing’s small businesses to arts and culture grants.

Her experience on her high school’s newspaper helped her get the job, but working for a weekly publication taught her a lot.

“In high school, I had a couple weeks to do a story, compared to City Pulse where I had to learn how to really manage my time better,” she said. “I had maybe three to four web stories a week, so it was intense.”

Wilson also is involved with MSU Telecasters, which has been especially helpful, since someday she hopes to work as an entertainment reporter.

“I was able to start on-camera reporting. I look at these videos now and see what I could have done differently and what I will do differently,” she said.

Krista Wilson 2Currently, Wilson is working as a host for Planet Radio 100, an Internet radio station. As a host, Wilson interviews artists about their music on air. She also reports on current events and localizes stories to Detroit.

She first heard of the opportunity on www.internships.com. She applied, did a phone interview, and started the job as soon as she finished spring semester.

All of these experiences have helped Wilson find her strengths and interests in a journalism career path.

“When I go to be an entertainment reporter, I can say ‘Okay, this is what I want to do.’ I feel like I really have a purpose here. (My internships have) confirmed my goals,” she said. “I actually like radio hosting more. I feel like there’s more freedom. Even though it’s journalism, it’s entertainment, so you have more freedom to be creative than when you’re just reporting on the facts. Your personality is more part of the package.”

Wilson received the MSUFCU Internship Award, which helped cover her expenses during her summer at Planet Radio.

Even with three work experiences under her belt, she’s not stopping. Wilson currently is searching for another broadcasting internship for the summer.

She encourages her fellow students not to discount their own experiences, even if they haven’t had an internship yet.

“Any experience you have is good experience. They shouldn’t feel like they’ll be turned down or rejected because they don’t have prior experience,” she said. “If they had a journalism class where they had to do a video or a story, they can use that stuff from class and use it to apply for internships.”

By Kelsey Block, Journalism and Arts and Humanities double major

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Persistence Pays Off for ComArtSci Senior

Posted on: February 10, 2016

Michelai Graham -  City Pulse

Michelai Graham, a Journalism and Media and Information double major, isn’t afraid to travel far and wide for the things she’s passionate about. Originally from Sacramento, California, Graham chose to come to Michigan State to study journalism after falling in love with the field in high school.

After joining MSU Telecasters and working as an Assistant Director, Graham knew she also loved Media and Information and decided to participate in the “Beyond Bollywood: A Taste of Indian Media” study abroad program this past summer. She’s worked with IMPACT 89 FM and ComArtSci’s own DMAT lab.

She says her dream job is to some day be an investigative documentary filmmaker. But until that day, she’s gaining experience wherever she can.

Most recently, she worked as an intern for Lansing’s alternative weekly newspaper, City Pulse. As an intern, Graham wrote stories for the arts and culture section. She covered everything from summer arts festivals to infant French immersion classes.

“Everyone in the office was so nice about helping me get to where I needed to be,” Graham said, adding that she was able to improve her writing substantially by the end of the summer.

Michelai Graham India“I am a horrible headline writer, it’s usually the last thing I try to do,” she said. “But at the end of my internship, (my editor) was actually using my headlines.”

Graham first found City Pulse after attending ComArtSci Connect. She talked with a lot of larger media companies at the career event, and, while she recognized that they were great companies, she found herself drawn to the idea of a smaller organization.

“I noticed these were all good media companies, but I knew what type of goals I had and what I wanted to do,” she said.

So, Graham got in touch with the Arts and Culture Editor.

“I was consistent with reaching out. I just told them I was going to be in the area and kept reaching out to them, and they called me in for an interview and hired me the same day,” Graham said. “It was just a matter of being persistent.”

Graham received the Adrienne M. Johns Communication Arts and Sciences Internship Award in connection with her internship at City Pulse. She said ComArtSci Career Services has been instrumental in helping her find professional opportunities.

“Utilize Career Services. Julie (Hagopian) is awesome. They’ll teach you how to create a resume from scratch,” Graham said. “And definitely read the emails. Really just take advantage of all the resources. I think ComArtSci has opened the door for opportunities I never thought I would ever have.”

By Kelsey Block, Journalism and Arts and Humanities double major

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Grad Student Earns Fellowship in Seattle

Posted on: February 8, 2016

Ameilia Havanec_Crosscut mainAmelia Havanec graduated from the University of Rochester with a bachelor’s degree in Brain and Cognitive Sciences. So how did she end up at Michigan State studying journalism?

“I wanted to know everything there is to know about journalism,” she said, adding that she’s always wanted to be a science writer and was first attracted to MSU because of its reputable environmental journalism program.

This past summer, Havanec worked as a science and technology editorial fellow for Crosscut Public Media, an online magazine based in Seattle. She credits her networking with helping her land the position.

“I networked a ton,” Havanec said. “Any job I’ve had, I never got because I filled out a form. Every job I got was through some kind of networking.”

As a fellow, Havanec specialized in technology and science writing.

“I never wrote about technology before, so this was another place for me to expand my skill set,” she said.

She also noted the benefits of working for smaller companies like Crosscut.

“You can really write about what you want,” she said. “You have more fluidity, more freedom.”

Havanec is a recipient of the Marge Sorge Internship Award.

“I wasn’t getting paid and I was moving cross-country. It helped to alleviate a lot of the financial setbacks I might incur in even pursuing this internship,” she said.

Amelia Havanec_Crosscut main 2Before she got to Crosscut, Havanec worked as an assistant in a number of laboratories. She also wrote for Scientific American and Imaginova Corp., through which her work was picked up by major news agencies like U.S. News and World Report, FOX and MSNBC.

Havanec credits the College of Communication Arts and Sciences with helping to give her confidence in her career.

“The more experience I get, the more confident I am in knowing what questions I can ask,” she said. “When I say I’d like to be a science writer, it’s not that I know everything. I just have confidence in knowing how to ask a question and get to the point of what they’re trying to say.”

Havanec also said her fellow CAS students have helped to inspire her.

“It’s really cool interacting with other students and seeing what they are producing and writing,” she said. “I know that there’s a lot more I need to learn, and it’s cool being here to see other students learning the same things.”

But Havanec also has a bit of advice to offer other students: do your research, especially before heading into an interview for a science story.

“Spend an entire day researching that person or organization, and whatever you’re writing about,” she said. “Really take detailed notes, because the more you know the better questions you have to ask.”

By Kelsey Block, Journalism and Arts and Humanities double major

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Bias Busters Opens Eyes for Students Working on Latest Book

Posted on: February 2, 2016

By Victoria Bowles, senior Journalism major and ComArtSci Editorial Assistant

Bias Busters African American GuideAt some point at work, school or in our personal lives, we will be confronted with questions and comments about people who are different from us. Last semester, I had the opportunity to explore these types of questions as I helped write a book for the School of Journalism’s Bias Busters series.

The Bias Busters class, led by School of Journalism Editor in Residence Joe Grimm, uses journalism to produce a series of books that break down cultural and socially constructed walls and replaces bias and stereotypes by encouraging conversation among people and opening up discourse among groups.

The book our class wrote, titled “100 Questions and Answers About African Americans,” sets out to break down societal barriers and stereotypes about African Americans. It is an eye opener into what a lot of the American population does not know about African Americans.

Our class spent an entire semester asking questions and looking for content that would best inform readers on the subject. The book could have easily been 400 questions and a dictionary’s length, but we worked together to create a concise collection of information.

Our class met once a week and was made up of students from different academic disciplines, races and religions. Everyone had their own idea as to what should be included, and we frequently had in-depth discussions about race and why certain stereotypes would be more impactful to address.

Throughout the semester, small groups would stay after class. Professor Grimm always brought us snacks, and one evening ordered us pizza. For many of us, staying late to work on the book wasn't a burden because we wanted to produce a guide that we would be proud of.

In an age when every type of opinion and comment is shared on the Internet, we were committed to making our guide a resource for people who wanted to responsibly educate themselves.

Brian Batayeh, a Biomedical Laboratory Science student, told me he “really enjoyed the creative process because it pushed us to have difficult conversations surrounding systemic issues of racism domestically and globally.” He also said that “doing the research and discussing what might be contributing to the information that we found was an eye-opening experience.”

Although we created a guide to help people understand African Americans, our work will never speak for everyone, nor would we want it to. If you have an educated and honest question about someone in your community, it’s okay to ask as long as you are willing to listen.

Overall, I hope the people who read the book appreciate the care and time that went into creating it and take it upon themselves to try to understand others and educate themselves on issues of race and equality.

“100 Questions and Answers About African American’s is now available in print and digital formats. It is the largest guide in the series so far at 68 pages.

The Bias Busters series began in 2013 and the African American guide is the ninth in the series. Other guides have covered Americans, Arab Americans, East Asian Cultures, Hispanics and Latinos, Indian Americans, Native Americans, Muslim Americans, and Veterans.

Bias Busters African Americans staff

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MSU Opportunities Lead to Broadcast Internship

Posted on: January 14, 2016

Brittanie Chludzinski

Journalism junior Brittanie Chludzinski has always had a love for journalism. She still remembers putting on nightly newscasts for her parents when she was little.

“I would write stuff up and pretend I was speaking as an anchor or reporter. I don’t really know where I got that from, I just thought it was fun,” Chludzinski said.

Then, when she got to high school, she joined the school newspaper at the urging of her English teacher. Later, her JRN 200 professor Omar Sofradzija encouraged her to apply to The State News.

“That was my first real journalism experience,” she said. “It was such an amazing experience and I learned about reporting and being persistent. That was a really good foundation.”

Since then, Chludzinski has worked with MSU Telecasters, PRSSA’s Hubble Connections and The Big Green.

Those experiences helped her to land an internship at WJBK FOX 2 in Detroit.

Brittanie Chludzinski main 2As a news intern, Chludzinski worked closely with reporter Deena Centofanti. She helped research story ideas, scheduled and conducted interviews, and wrote packages that eventually aired on television.

“It was really cool because she put a lot of trust in me and gave me the opportunity to go out and do it on my own,” Chludzinski said.

One of the most useful things she learned throughout the summer was writing for broadcast.

“It’s a lot more conversational, and obviously you depend a lot more on visuals to tell your story,” Chludzinski said. “Deena was really helpful in helping me develop my voice and developing this new skill, since it was something I didn’t have a lot of experience in.”

All of her work experiences have helped Chludzinski to realize just how many skills she has.

“Now I have a really broad skillset that I can apply to different things,” she said. “Even if I have a PR job, I could still be making videos or doing broadcast stuff or writing feature stories. But if I do the journalism side, I still need to know how to target different audiences and share a message concisely. All these skills really go together.”

Chludzinski also feels the College of Communication Arts and Sciences has been immensely helpful in her career – from her interactions with encouraging professors to having multiple professional opportunities on campus to taking classes with real-world applications.

“In one PR class, we made a whole media kit. We wrote press releases and newsletters and brochures,” she said. “That was a really cool experience because we walked away from the class with something we could show employers without even having a job.”

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