Observation helps journalism students

By Megan G. Razzetti 

Journalism students need to observe others so that they may learn skills that help them tell better stories.

On Saturday, during the Journalism Association of Community Colleges 2015 SoCal Conference, Rebecca Kimitch, Rob Kuznia and Frank Suraci spoke about uncovering corruption within the Centinela Valley School District located in south Los Angeles.

Their reporting while at The Daily Breeze exposed former superintendent Jose Fernandez, who had been compensated an out-of-the- ordinary amount of $633,000. Ultimately, their reporting led them to win the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Community Reporting.

Without the skills they demonstrated throughout their articles, their wrongdoings would not have been exposed and Fernandez would still be taking of advantage of  a school district in a predominantly low-income community.

Kuznia spoke of how he was able to spot the usual perks that were given to Fernandez. At the time, Kunzia covered the education beat for The Daily Breeze, so his familiarity with local school systems helped him notice changes. Along with his prior knowledge, Kunzia said that he also had an anonymous source tip him off  and  to this day, he still does not know who it was.

The importance of covering a beat such as education not only helps journalists develop strong knowledge in certain areas, but also helps them develop relationships with potential sources.

Relationships with people are incredibly important because they help find the missing pieces of a story. If someone doesn’t know the answer to a question, they can refer you to someone else who might.

Suraci also suggested that if you can’t find someone to talk to, try talking to the enemies or the opposition of the subject. According to Suraci, everyone has their own agenda and doesn’t mind speaking for it.

Another vital aspect of these award winning stories, is the clear example of teamwork. Kimitch and Kunzia used skills they each had and fused them together in an effort to bring the attention of readers to the small, unknown school district of Centinela.

Teamwork is important to remember especially as a student in the newsroom. More than likely the people working in the campus newsroom now may be colleagues down the road at an even higher professional level. Also, meeting other student journalists at conferences and competitions expands networks and relationships for the future.

The trio all took a risk in jumping on the story once they had  what might be a lead. Knowing when to take risks is an important skill because it will challenge student journalists to break away from a comfort zone and go down roads they haven’t gone down before.

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