Scripps Howard Winner Back from Japan

Posted on: June 11, 2013

Portrait: Wilkins 

“Fantabuloussness!” is how Emily Wilkins describes her recent trip to Japan.

Wilkins, a journalism and political science senior, was one of nine winners of the  Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Competition sponsored by the Scripps Howard Foundation. 

The collegiate reporting competition awards a 14-day guided study tour to Japan, an area of special interest to Howard, to nine aspiring journalists. The competition was established in 1984 , in cooperation with the Indiana University School of Journalism, to honor the memory of journalists who led Scripps Howard Newspapers from 1922-1953 and United Press International from 1912-1920.

Wilkins, originally from Farmington Hills, Mich., was drawn to MSU through her experience with the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association and the opportunity to work for The State News.  Her participation in the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire program in Washington D.C. in 2012 left a lasting impression and inspired her to enter the competition.

“The Scripps Howard Foundation stands out in its commitment to the next generation of journalists,” Wilkins said. “Every mentor I've met in the program, in addition to being a great journalist, is also a passionate teacher. I've learned so much and I owe Scripps a lot. 

BuildingWilkins' trip occurred between May 23 and June 1. It included excursions to the Kansai region cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, as well as a visit to Hiroshima, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park, and Tokyo.

“The goal was just to immerse ourselves in the culture as completely as possible,” Wilkins said. “Every day was packed with places to go and things to do. One night we went to an arcade, one night we got ramen, [another] night we rode a Ferris wheel on top of a building.”

The trip also offered Wilkins the opportunity to further her understanding of international affairs. “Learning about other cultures ultimately helps us better understand ourselves. You don't understand what makes something sweet until you've tasted something sour or bitter or salty.” 

It was these observations of Japan and Japanese culture that encouraged Emily to revaluate American individualism. 

“Japan breeds a strong sense of duty in their citizens,” Wilkins said. “For example, you wouldn't say ‘Hi, I'm Emily,’ when introducing yourself. You'd say ‘Hi, I'm Emily, a student at Michigan State.’ You are not an island—you're a part of group and you have a responsibility to that group.”

Reflecting back Wilkins said the most inspirational moment was visiting Hiroshima.

“I know the ethics of dropping the bomb is a topic up for debate,” said Emily. “But I feel guilty to think of all the innocent civilians whose lives were flipped upside down that day and in the months and years following. But Hiroshima doesn't paint itself as a victim. Instead, it comes across as an advocate for world peace. I'm sure there are many reasons behind that, but it stood out to me that this was the final outcome for the city.”

Observation is a simple act with an eminent impact. Wilkins says she is excited to be back in a newsroom again and to see how her experiences in Japan influence her reporting. 



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