Student Career Spotlight: Being a Journalist at The Daily Collegian
Distributed for free at the University Park campus, The Daily Collegian has a circulation of around 7,000 a day. This college newspaper frequently wins awards, including the 2010 Best Newspaper Silver Crown Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s Crown/Circle Awards. In 2012, The Princeton Review named The Daily Collegian the #1 college newspaper in the United States, and Collegian alumni have gone on to work at The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Esquire, CNN and NPR.
Penn State University
Bio: Sam Janesch is a senior at Penn State University majoring in print journalism and is the editor in chief of The Daily Collegian, a completely independent, student-run paper. For the Collegian, he has reported on Greek Life, the PSU administration and the crime beat, along with holding editing roles for three other semesters. He interned with the Daily Local News in West Chester, Pa, last summer and is currently an intern at Lancaster Newspapers in Lancaster, Pa.
1. Tell me a little bit about yourself outside of journalism.
While my life currently revolves around journalism in almost every way, it certainly wasn’t always that way. I grew up in Chester County, Pa, going to Phillies games every season, Stone Harbor, N.J., every summer and skiing in the Poconos every winter. When I do get away from journalism, I like to go camping, hiking or something else with nature and get away from my phone for a little while. One of my other favorite things to do in my downtime is go to the movies.
2. Why do you work in journalism?
I fell in love with journalism in my first semester of reporting for the Collegian. I’ve always enjoyed writing and the effort of putting beautiful language together, but at the Collegian I realized a passion for storytelling. Everyone really does have a story, and the times you find a truly amazing one, they are incredible moments for the reporter and the person whose story is being shared. As someone interested in so many different subject areas, journalism has also allowed me to get a taste of a variety of fields and meet people from all walks of life.
3. What kind of stories do you look for from your writers?
At the Collegian, we look for all the day to day event coverage, but also interesting enterprise and long form features. We expect our writers to constantly look for different angles for stories related to their beats and come up with issue-oriented stories that will engage our readers. We expect most articles to be personalized – focusing on the people – with engaging ledes and emotional ties if possible.
4. What do you think The Daily Collegian does differently from the rest of College newspapers?
I believe the Collegian has stood out for a variety of reasons in the past few years. With the break of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case and the constant ongoing aftereffects, the Collegian was forced to handle the situation with poise and professionalism. With incredibly talented writers, editors, photographers and designers, we have excelled in reporting on crises and breaking news. We’ve adapted and learned how to report on crimes and courts, competing against other professional journalists in the local area, the state and the country. Part of this success definitely comes from our training process where new members will go through a semester of “candidacy” as they get introduced to the organization, journalism in general and a start at what they’ll be doing. We also have excelled on social media and garnered one of the largest, if not the largest Twitter following for a student newspaper in the country.
Bio: Emily Chappell will be heading into her senior year at Penn State this fall. She is majoring in print journalism with a minor in English. She has written and edited for The Daily Collegian for two years, holding positions such as Performing Arts Reporter, Campus Chief and Crime Reporter.
1. Tell me about yourself outside of journalism.
I’ve always been someone who loves to read and write. I actually came into college as an English major and tried a few different things, including volunteering for the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, before I joined The Daily Collegian. I spend most of my time at the Collegian office, even once I’m done for the day, because those who work in the Collegian office with me have become my best friends and are honestly like my family.
2. What typically inspires you to write a story?
I love to write about people. Profiles on people, honestly, on any person at all, are my favorite. I always told my reporters when I was editing that every person you meet has a story. Some may be more obvious, like if you’re interviewing an athlete about the love they have for the sport they play, but others may be more subtle. A good reporter knows how to be a good listener — you need to make someone comfortable enough to talk openly with you, because once you can have an actual conversation, you learn what makes them tick and in turn, their story. I find people fascinating and being able to find out why they love something or how they got somewhere in life is why I write.
3. How do you maintain an objective viewpoint when you are passionate about a subject?
Objectivity is a hard subject — but when reporting on something, being objective is always key. Reporters need to be passionate in order to write a story that others want to read. If I’m writing something and I don’t care about, why should others? I need to find out how to write the piece in a way so our audience is interested. It can seem like a catch 22 — write about something you love, without being bias. But loving something doesn’t mean you’re unfair about your coverage. Instead, loving what you write about means you care enough to make sure both sides are equally represented.
4. Which story has gained the biggest response?
My last semester was spent writing for the crime beat, something that deals a lot with the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse case — many of these stories gained a large response from our audience of both alumni and students. I also covered a few student deaths this year, one of which turned out to be a suicide with an investigation surrounding it because of hazing claims. This story was a piece I worked on all day, for about ten hours straight, that got a large response.