From a Teaching Hospital to an Emergency Room: SFNS Makes its Way to the National Radar

By Barbara Corbellini Duarte

I met my professors and mentors, Chris Delboni and Allan Richards, in a chilly morning in New York City because our j-school is now a national deal.

Chris Delboni, South Florida News Service news director, was invited to speak at the “Classrooms as Newsrooms: Teaching Journalism in the Real World” conference, organized by Columbia Journalism School, on Oct. 26.

There, journalism educators and professional leaders gathered to try to decipher one problem: how to teach journalism in a time when no one knows can’t know where journalism is going.  Some said partnerships between traditional media organizations and j-schools were the answer. Others said it doesn’t work so well in all parts of the country, and still others didn’t believe in the partnerships at all.

Allan Richards, FIU/SJMC associate dean, gets ready to ask a questions. Photo by Barbara Corbellini Duarte

Allan Richards, FIU/SJMC associate dean, gets ready to ask a question. Photo by Barbara Corbellini Duarte

“It’s always important to go to such conferences to see how other schools are exploring, experimenting, innovating, especially in this crucial and exciting era when journalism is undergoing significant changes,” Richards said.

Delboni attributed the success of SFNS to her newsroom — a journalism residency program, where students research, report, write, edit videos and publish in major papers — to the flexibility of constantly adjusting to the new world order of combining fundamental journalism values with new ways of doing distributing news.

She said collaboration was key.

“We had collaboration from the faculty, we had the collaboration from the editors, we had the collaboration, most importantly, from the students,” Delboni said during her panel discussion. “That’s the newsroom of the future. It’s the collaboration that we need to focus on, and that’s what we are teaching our students. Yes they are learning to be good reporters. They are learning to do good video. But they are learning to be good people.”

Genuine collaboration is key to a successful newsroom, says Delboni. Photo by Barbara Corbellini Duarte.

Genuine collaboration is key to a successful newsroom, says Delboni. Photo by Barbara Corbellini Duarte.

Joan Chrissos, one of the Miami Herald editors who first became part of SFNS, also attended the conference and weighted in.

“With the credibility of your organization and your students, now the editors, they want the students, they want them to come to the newsroom, and they come to your class,” Chrissos said to Delboni. “We really do all work together.”

But the conversation fired up as Marc Cooper, professor at University of Southern California, brought up a different approach with his Neon Tommy online independent publication, where students work for the website doing serious journalism pieces but partner with traditional media organizations only on occasion.

“This is not always an easy sell with the student,” Cooper said. “But it became easy after a couple of years when we would go to the greater Los Angeles Press Club competing against everybody in the world, and there would be two big winners for the last couple of years, The Los Angeles Times and Neon Tommy.”

Silvana Ordoñez, former SFNS reporter who now works at CNBC, joined the conversation as one of the guest speakers in recent graduates’ panel.

Silvana Ordoñez is now working at CNBC. Photo by Barbara Corbellini Duarte.

Silvana Ordoñez is now working at CNBC. Photo by Barbara Corbellini Duarte.

She shared her experience in the SFNS and how, after about 20 drafts of an article about a restaurant that served all-you-can-eat lobster, she learned news stories are about people.

“I think the South Florida News Service was not a hospital, it was an emergency room,” she said. “There were times I was emailing Chris, going through drafts, on Friday night, on Saturday night, on a Sunday.  That’s why I call it an emergency room because she was always there.”

It wasn’t easy and Ordoñez often felt like giving up. But at her forth story, she began to understand the process better.

“We were all starting this business. We didn’t have the resources, we only had her, that was it,” she said. “But we worked together and we made it happen.”

For me, the conference was a one-day journey of figuring out where I want to be, and what type of journalism I want to do.  It’s simple: I want to do journalism.

I don’t care if I’m telling a story on a newspaper page, a TV package, a radio wrap, a blog post or a 140-character tweet, as long as the story is fair, balanced, well reported and relevant.

The process of reporting and gathering information is the same, it doesn’t matter what medium we choose.

There are new jobs in media and students have hundreds of new skills to learn, giving school infinite options of directions to go. But I don’t want schools to forget to teach reporting, and the journalist’s job to hold people accountable and find the stories that impact our community and society.

At the end of the day, I chose this profession because I want to discover and deliver meaningful information, not to get more clicks.

ColumbiaPanel 2013-10-26108

SFNS reporter Barbara Corbellini Duarte, currently interning at NBC, Miami Herald editor Joan Chrissos, Allan Richards, FIU/SJMC associate dean, and alum Silvana Ordonez, who works at CNBC, share a moment in NYC at a break during the all-day conference.



Watch here the presentations of Chris Delboni and Silvana Ordoñez:

For more information on the panel and all participants, click here.
To watch all panels, click here.

Categories: Journalism & Media Studies

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