Journalism beyond high school: Three staff members of Tech’s paper weigh In

Michelle Sutherland, Liana Bayne and Danielle Buynak work to meet deadlines on Wednesday night. Photo by Deepa Shivaram

During this week at jCamp students were exposed to college living: dorm life, Virginia Tech’s mouthwatering food and classes on campus. While students here explored their interest in journalism, three of the camp counselors told their experiences of pursing journalism at the college level. They addressed certain issues jCampers pondered about.

Those who have already pursued their journalism interest in high school, similar to Liana Bayne, can continue their love for the rushed deadlines, which probably had them hooked in the first place. Her interest for writing emerged in grade school while writing journal entries about the little adventures she had with her mother. In eighth grade, her teacher took notice and encouraged her to pursue journalism in high school.

Bayne quickly fell in love. With involvement in practically the entire student media in her high school ranging from literary magazine editor to broadcasting, she brought her enthusiasm to the Collegiate Times (CT) as a reporter freshman year.

Although Bayne entered college with valuable journalism experience, she continued to seek opportunities to improve her skills in different areas of newspaper production; a factor she believed was vital to good journalism.

“It’s great because people here help you. I didn’t have much experience with designing, but now I can lay out a page a lot more confidently after being on the paper,” Bayne said.

A newfound passion

Experience is not a determining factor when being accepted into a college newspaper. College newspapers allow for those with all levels of experience to succeed with their specific involvement in producing a paper.

Those who recently developed an interest in journalism can look at Michelle Sutherland, who proved that limited experience can’t hinder future success. Sutherland’s interest in journalism didn’t spark until her senior year of high school after which she was able to snag an internship with the Tampa Bay Times when journalism was solely a hobbyHowever, once she attended Tech, it quickly turned into a passion which helped her land the editor-in-chief position as a junior.

“Initially I was interested in government, but I realized that journalism had government elements, and when I joined the CT I grew a passion for it,” Sutherland said.

College journalism is time intensive

If you’re truly interested in pursuing journalism in college, it’s vital to know hard work is a core value.  In high school, students are encouraged to pursue practically all of their interests, so they find it feasible to play three varsity sports, place on the honor roll and make deadlines. Although in college, one has to choose fewer activities to dedicate his or her time to. In terms of college journalism, time management is key.

Danielle Buynak’s time commitment is a bit mind-boggling. Last year, in addition to the required 15 to 20 hours a week, Buynak spent some of her free time to meet the demanding deadlines as the managing editor of design. However hopeful, design students shouldn’t be intimidated.

“Although it’s time consuming, this type of time commitment isn’t unheard of,” Buynak said. “Many students are dedicated to something to this extent.”

On the other hand, this type of commitment comes at a price. It’s easy to forget about your other course load if you find yourself hibernating in the newsroom all night. The time intensive lifestyle was a scary realization for Bayne.

“Sophomore year I was news-editor and working 40 hours a week,” Bayne said. ” This was also when I switched my major from Communications to English. The English major had classes which were a lot harder, and I almost failed a few of my classes.”

Perks of the passion

The commitment also brings major perks. All three members mutually agree their work experience on the CT has brought major advantages in their lives both socially and professionally. Students have the opportunity to access internships, develop vital networking skills and form long term friendships.

Buynak’s designing layouts were awarded with first and second place through the Virginia Press Association in 2011. Despite the prestigious awards, Buynak’s proudest accomplishment was one which affected her fellow Hookies.

“The Orange Effect shirt for fall 2012 football season was a shirt design competition I won, which I actually found about from someone through the paper,” Buynak said. “It was one of my favorite accomplishments. The techniques I used for the design were ones I learned through the paper.”

By college students pursuing journalism early on, they are able to build a type of foundation in an environment which could often feel overwhelming.

Sutherland joined the CT as a freshman where she found a group of friends.

“Pretty much most of my friends are from there (newspaper) or the fencing club,” Sutherland said. “It’s also good for networking because I’m able to call my past mentors and see if there are any good jobs.”

Regardless of whether a journalism major is one’s ultimate goal, this interest should be explored through experience at the college level.

Sutherland explains “it’s absolutely necessary to do the newspaper if you want to go into journalism and it even if you don’t want to; the skills you get from it are really helpful.”

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