It’s not common for students to get an all expenses paid trip to San Francisco to gain professional level experience working in a newsroom. But for one Elon University School of Communications Fellow and Lumen Scholar, that scenario became a reality.
Junior media arts & entertainment and information sciences major Jeff Stern was one of 20 students (from a pool of 400 applicants) chosen to participate in the Online News Association’s Student Newsroom at its annual conference Sept. 20-23 in San Francisco. During the conference, Stern and his 19 other peers from across the nation and the world attended sessions and workshops focused on creating online news and studying the trends of the Internet.
“It was really cool to represent Elon and be out there,” said Stern, the online managing editor of The Pendulum. “The culture was awesome.”
Stern was able to work with a mentor in a fully functioning newsroom, where he researched a topic of his choice, interviewed top employees from organizations such as the Knight Foundation and the Chicago Tribune and produced a final project – a story about the importance of coding for journalists, complete with an interactive graphic.
“Just the fact that I got to talk with these industry leaders to write a story was really exciting,” Stern said. “I would love to possibly do what they’re doing in the future.”
Stern, who was one of the youngest members of the conference—which featured a mix of graduate and undergraduate students—said one of his favorite parts of the experience was meeting a large number of communications and computer science majors. Other colleges and universities represented in the newsroom included the University of Miami, the University of Oklahoma, the University of Georgia, Northwestern University, the University of Maryland, Syracuse University, the Pennsylvania State University and the University of Southern California.
“I know of very few people who do those things and want to do both of those things,” Stern said. “Because, really, there is no denying that technology is changing the journalism industry, so it’s good to know people are out there thinking about the intersection of computer science and journalism.”
But the Online News Association conference participants aren’t the only ones who have communications and computer science on their minds. Stern is also currently working on his Lumen Scholar project, which aims to explore how elementary school students interact with electronic information on tablet devices compared to printed publications. He hopes to identify how students are engaged with information and how much of they retain.
“Trying to find optimal uses for technology in the classroom and how it can affect the world and help people learn better is important,” Stern said. “Education at an early age is critical because if you don’t like to learn at 5, you’re not going to like to learn when you’re older.”
Stern said he’s glad he got the opportunity to attend the ONA conference not only because it gave him the opportunity to explore the world where journalism and computer science collide, but also because he got to experience the working world and all it has to offer.
— by Addie Haney, ’14