Journalism Symposium Features Alumni Working in the Field

February 13, 2020

Hillary Hempstead

students sitting together in semi-circle.
Pictured from left to right: Event organizers Charlie Rinehart-Jones, managing editor of the Grape, Nathan Carpenter, editor-in-chief of the Oberlin Review, Ananya Gupta, managing editor of the Oberlin Review, P.J. McCormick, editor-in-chief of the Grape, Molly Bryson, editor-in-chief of the Grape, Katherine MacPhail, editor-in-chief of the Oberlin Review.
Photo credit: Yvonne Gay

Alumni journalists from a range of publications will present at “A Disrupted Media Landscape: Skills, Perspectives, Solutions,” February 24 through March 1.

The journalism symposium, A Disrupted Media Landscape: Skills, Perspectives, Solutions, will be held from February 24 to March 1 and is open to all members of the community to learn about the current state of media.

Organized by six student leaders from the Oberlin Review and the Grape, the weeklong event features daily programming that brings together a range of alumni journalists who are achieving in their respective fields. Presenters include Rani Molla ’08 and Aaron Zitner ’84, who will lead a data journalism workshop; Sonia Shah ’90 will speak about her experience as a science journalist and investigative reporter; and Anthony Arnove ’91 will discuss the world of independent publishing. Recent graduates Sophie Kemp ’18 and Lucas Fortney ’18 will share their experiences at Pitchfork, Vogue, and Eater NY.  

We caught up with the six students responsible for the programming to talk about the symposium and what to expect.  

Q: Why did this group want to take on organizing a journalism symposium?

A:  There are so many Oberlin alumni practicing incredible, groundbreaking journalism, and we felt that we had a duty (and an opportunity) to recognize and learn from them. Many of those alumni worked for the Review or the Grape when they were students here, and many, many others had a less than linear journey, or came from an entirely different Oberlin scene. By bringing in such a diverse group of alumni journalists, the symposium hopes to represent a range of backgrounds and experiences, while still presenting a career in journalism as something attainable and broadly impactful—especially as Oberlin prepares to launch its first academic concentration in journalism in fall 2020.

Q: What can attendees expect at the symposium?

A: Our hope is that the sessions will be engaging and informative even if your previous experience with journalism is just reading a news article on Twitter every once in a while. We’ve also designed the sessions to be as hands-on as possible—we want attendees to walk away with a better understanding of the kinds of skills that will define journalism as we continue to move into the 21st century. The journalism landscape is rapidly changing, especially as attacks against the press continue to be an issue in the U.S. and around the world. We want people to gain a more clear understanding of the current state of journalism, as well as build some insight into where it’s going in the future. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with Oberlin alumni who are doing incredible work across a range of media and platforms.

Q: Why did staff from the Oberlin Review and the Grape band together to produce this?

A: When the Review and the Grape decided to become friends this year (after a long history of rivalry, we might add), we knew it was time to do something big. Both publications had dreams of putting on something like this for quite some time, but only after joining forces did the symposium seem like something we might actually be able to pull off. By pooling together our various contacts and areas of interest, we were able to compile a pretty comprehensive and impressive list of alumni journalists and presentation topics. We also felt that there was a need for student journalism to be more widely accessible on campus.

Q: How did you land on the mix of alumni who are participating?

A:  We wanted to make sure that students, regardless of whether or not they are interested in journalism, could find something compelling in our programming. It would have been a shame to bring a plethora of professionals to campus, only to have just the staff members of our two publications attend. And the fact of the matter is: Oberlin alumni are working all across the spectrum. In curating the symposium lineup, we intentionally chose journalists whose areas of expertise could appeal to a variety of Oberlin students—from STEM majors to visual artists and everyone in between.

Q: What do you hope that attendees will take away from the experience?

A: We hope attendees will leave the symposium feeling inspired and informed. For those with intentions to pursue a career in journalism, we hope that the symposium will provide useful skills and knowledge for the future. For everyone (journalists and non-journalists alike), we hope the symposium will incentivize more mindful and intentional media consumption—whether that be in regard to the kinds of news outlets you subscribe to, the Twitter accounts you follow, or the ways in which you interact with data. 

Q: Who should consider attending?

A: Everyone. By covering such a large array of topics (current events, arts, politics, foreign affairs), as well as a diversity of media (print, podcast, social media, etc.), we hope to attract a large and eclectic audience. Our goal is to find a way for everyone, regardless of major or personal interests, to engage with the field of journalism. Apart from being comprehensive, we also hope that the symposium will be relevant. It’s a critical time for journalism, after all. If you’ve been keeping up with any of the big media stories—the presidential primaries, the impeachment hearings, the coronavirus, the fires in Australia, the Iran saga—then you have something new to learn by attending this symposium.

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