Journalism major Kyra O’Connor ’23 attends SPJ’s Student Leadership Institute

Kyra O’Connor ’23, executive director of Elon News Network, participated in the program’s inaugural cohort that focused on improving student leadership and enhancing journalistic skills.

In mid-July, Kyra O’Connor ’23 sat in a camp cabin in Indiana surrounded by 23 student journalists from across the country. It was a four o’clock in the afternoon, she had been traveling for almost eight hours, and the coffee was starting to wear off.

But the journalism major said she hardly even noticed. Being in a room encircled by fellow college journalists all attempting to improve their leadership skills was worth it, she recalled.

Kyra O’Connor ’23

The Elon News Network executive director was invited to participate in the inaugural Society of Professional Journalists Student Leadership Institute (SLI) at Camp Jameson in Indianapolis from July 16-18. The SLI was designed to help collegiate journalists build their confidence for leading and contributing to a team, and make the student members of SPJ credible, ethical and values-based leaders.

“Everything we did was directly applicable to my work at Elon,” O’Connor said. “I can’t decide what was my favorite part: learning so much about being an inclusive, confident leader or watching my fellow peers, now friends, do the same.”

In her role as the top leader in ENN, several of O’Connor’s biggest objectives revolve around how to get more students involved in the newsroom and how to get more students on campus engaged with the news organization’s work. Between leadership style assessments and sessions on how to create and support a diverse newsroom, O’Connor said she left the SLI with plenty of ideas and inspiration for the upcoming academic year.

“We are in such an exciting time for journalism, with so many new ways to tell stories and publications finally addressing issues within the newsroom, like a lack of conversations about diversity and mental health,” O’Connor said. “The SLI gave us as leaders tools to be a positive part of our changing industry.”

The SLI, created with the support of the Scripps Howard Foundation, allowed the small cohort of college students to learn about leadership concepts and enhance their skills with the help of expert facilitators. Attendees were mentored by young professional journalists and participated in activities such as discussions about journalism ethics and mental health, a yoga session and even held a student journalists talent show.

Related Articles

“At more than 110 years old, SPJ is more than a figurehead of objectivity, free speech and ethics. It also provides real-time, required tools for journalists — critical resources in this era of acrimony against journalism from our top leaders and their followers,” said Yvette Walker, chair of SPJ’s Journalism Education Committee. “We’re happy to support our up-and-coming leaders in SPJ through the SLI.”

The students will also have an opportunity to strengthen their skills at SPJ’s 2021 national conference, held Sept. 2-4 in New Orleans, through SPJ funding.