A new initiative at the School of Communication and Journalism (SoCJ) gives students real experience covering news and feature assignments for local media. Through the initiative, they get academic credit and professional bylines in print and online.
Stony Brook students have covered community events, including food festivals and car shows; science news, including sharks in Long Island waters and the fight against invasive lanternflies; and profiles on politicians seeking re-election. Their stories have appeared in the Long Island Advance, HuntingtonNow and several Long Island-themed websites.
“One of the core parts of education at our School is empowering students to gain real-world experience in the classroom that help them prepare to launch successful, rewarding careers,” said Laura Lindenfeld, dean of the SoCJ and executive director of the Alda Center for Communicating Science. “Initiatives like this help ensure that all students, including those unable to complete off-campus internships, have an equal opportunity to gain professional experience.”
The special course is for advanced students and is driven by the efforts of George Giokas, a journalism instructor and media entrepreneur.
“I can’t think of a better way to help struggling news operations and at the same time give our students valuable experience and the chance to work with local editors in our area. It’s a win-win for our news partners and the students,” Giokas said. “There are large areas of the country that have lost their community newspapers. If we can play a role in helping local editors keep communities informed, it’s worth all the effort.”
Giokas runs the course like a professional newsroom, where students are responsible both for suggesting stories they want to work on and for picking up assignments the outlets need covered.
“The program is a fantastic model for learning journalists. They are able to get very real, hands-on experience with the supervision of a great instructor like George, while also providing solid material for our publications,” said Nicole Fuentes, executive editor of the Long Island Advance, Suffolk County News, Islip Bulletin and Tide of the Moriches. “At the Long Island Advance, we can always use an extra reporter and really appreciate the fine work of the Stony Brook Media Group.”
The School of Communication and Journalism effort is part of a growing trend where journalism programs nationwide partner with resource-limited media outlets. The efforts are inspired by the University of Vermont’s Center for Community News, which is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the UVM College of Arts & Sciences and others.
“Students from this program have produced quality reporting and writing for our readers in Huntington,” said Pam Robinson, publisher of HuntingtonNow. “Each assignment has been returned complete and on time, and those stories have been unfailingly thorough and on point. These students have been a real asset to my site, helping round out the delivery of news in a very busy news community.”