Insider Knowledge: The Washington Capstone Experience – Broadcast & Digital Journalism

Insider Knowledge: The Washington Capstone Experience – Broadcast & Digital Journalism

For this Insider Knowledge post, Charlene “Charlie” Cooper detailed her time in Washington, D.C., for the D.C. Semester Capstone course.

Cooper graduated from the Broadcast and Digital Journalism (BDJ) program and is now working at a station in Roanoke, VA.  She found that the Washington Capstone experience presented an opportunity for a lot of growth and development in a short amount of time.

Cooper had to jump right into the D.C. market and hit the ground running.  She learned how to communicate with news directors and navigate a new market on-the-go.  Cooper noted that it was like nothing she had ever experienced before.  She had to introduce herself to key players in D.C., get around in an unfamiliar place and learn how to tell meaningful policy stories.  Cooper found the opportunity wild, and wildly rewarding.

When the she wasn’t interviewing Senators and Congressmen, or trying to get a perfect compressed standup shot in front of the White House, Cooper was receiving invaluable advice from mentors in the newsroom, shooting b-roll around the city to share with peers and listening to guest speakers who graced the students with nuggets of wisdom.  Cooper noted that the speakers series was one of her favorite parts of her D.C. Capstone course experience.

Ken Strickland, the NBC News Washington Bureau Chief was one of the most memorable speakers, in Cooper’s opinion.  A valuable piece of advice he gave the audience was to learn how to speak, not solely to fill a hole in a newscast, but to communicate with people in trying circumstances.  Strickland added that during those times reporters will be forced to find a voice that’s unlike any other voice they have ever had to use.  Cooper noted that each story may demand a different voice than the last one and it was all about finding that voice as an interviewer, writer and storyteller.

Cooper also found it great to have ABC News Correspondent, Karen Travers, come and speak to her class.  Travers remarked on how women should be in the room at all times to make men think of women when they are making decisions.  Travers added that oftentimes when there is a new spot to fill in the newsroom or a task that needs to get done,  the men making the decisions typically recommend other men for the job.  However, if a female is present in those meetings or conversations, she can add a different perspective and suggest that a woman be the one to take on the position.  Cooper added that in an industry that is still largely male dominated, the advice from Travers was extremely beneficial.

Cooper asked of Kyla Campbell, another one of her favorite speakers, how to decide when it is time to leave a market and move on.  Campbell replied, when you look around and find that there is no one left in the market for you to look up to.   Cooper added that when growth becomes a thing of the past, it is usually time to say goodbye.

Cooper found that one of the most important things she learned was that working in a newsroom is a team sport.  Cooper noted that many of the guests in D.C. remarked on how important it is to be nice to everyone.  The news industry is extremely small and people always run into each other no matter where they go.

To incoming students, Cooper says be knowledgeable, be prepared, be persistent, work those godforsaken hours, almost always say ‘yes’ to any task asked to perform, be nice and be a team player.

If you would like to learn more about the Master’s in Broadcast and Digital Journalism program please visit the Newhouse Master’s website

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Delisa Morris
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Delisa Morris is a current master's in PR candidate and third-year law student at Syracuse University. She studied political science and communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she received her bachelor's degree. Delisa is originally from Chicago.

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