Feature Writing

As a freelance writer for an OU student-run magazine targeting the University of Oklahoma faculty, I wrote this feature article on OU journalism students. 

OU Journalism Students Cover 2016 Caucuses

Gaylord College of Journalism is a nationally-recognized educational institution. With its tall windows that flood the halls with natural light, aesthetic red-brick walls, fortress-like turrets and large red doors, Gaylord Hall easily impresses onlookers. Anyone can tell from its impressive exterior that it is a building teeming with success stories and bubbling potential.

In addition to the external layer, the educational programming Gaylord produces doesn’t disappoint. Gaylord College strives to provide its students with unique opportunities that will serve their future careers in the field of journalism.

One of these great opportunities is the Advanced Multi-media Journalism course (JMC 4183), which focuses on the production of news stories. This course includes a rare class trip, which presents students with exclusive and raw journalism experience.

On Jan. 17, 14 OU undergraduate students and two OU faculty members embarked on a two-week trip to Des Moines, Iowa to cover the 2016 caucuses. The idea for this expedition was born in John Schmeltzer, OU community journalism professor’s, living room while watching a republican debate. As he watched this debate it struck him how unique and valuable of an experience it would be to train students to cover political events through real-world practice. There are some aspects of the journalism field that can’t be taught by taking notes in a classroom. Some aspects have to be discovered and fostered by individual experiences. A trip covering a political event would accomplish this purpose.

According to Schmeltzer, Dean Kelly jumped on board with this idea very quickly and “chased the money” to make this concept become a reality. In addition to money, it was important to seek out the proper networks and Dr. Gaddy, OU political science professor, aided this endeavor.

His former student works for the Huffington Post, which provided OU with the perfect opportunity. Huffington Post agreed to publish the material student’s produced and Schmeltzer said that Huffington Post does not use college reporters, which portrays how unique and monumental this opportunity was for Gaylord students.

Schmeltzer and Dean Kelly both had backgrounds in political writing and throughout their time in the Gaylord College have witnessed decreasing interest in this journalism terrain. One of their goals for this trip was to convey how much fun and entertaining covering politics can be.

Schmeltzer explained it was just as lively and exciting as covering sports because “they both have winners and losers-just with different names.”

According to Broadcast-Journalism major Gloria Noble, this goal was accomplished. After her experience with political writing during this trip she stated, “It was a defining trip for me…now I know that my affinity isn’t just for sports.”

However, these students weren’t covering the political caucuses from the same standpoint as most reporters. They developed a unique angle and focus, which was on the millennial generation. OU students wanted to figure out the Millennial’s view and what role they were serving in this election process.

Writing from a more concentrated and particular focus gave their writing an edge. This edge led other news outlets such as Oklahoma City’s ABC outlet television station KOCO and radio station Mitchell in the Morning to seek out their coverage and content. Two bilingual students even produced a package for Telemundo, a Spanish-speaking television network. Because of these valuable opportunities, OU faculty believed it necessary for these students to have professional facilities and services.

In order to create an authentic work environment, the faculty rented out the first floor of the Thoreau Center, a local meeting hall, and transformed it into an official temporary newsroom. It was so realistic it reminded him of the early years of his career. Schmeltzer explained how the way this group of students bonded together as young journalists and created a real-functioning newsroom was one of his favorite memories from the trip.

In addition to an official newsroom, three students served as editors and edited every piece reporters covered. Schmeltzer expressed how they expected every story and piece of writing to be analyzed by three sets of eyes because they wanted absolute perfection from their students. They even had lawyers on site, one from each of the Democratic and Republican parties, to answer their legal inquiries. This high level of expectation and extreme measures to establish professionalism adequately expresses Gaylord College’s journalistic credibility.

Throughout their time in Des Moines, these students didn’t operate like average college students, but embodied the professionalism and hard-working spirit that a real-world journalist requires. Not only did they grow and emerge as writers, but ensured that Gaylord College and the University of Oklahoma was impeccably and accurately represented to the utmost degree.