Being a journalist: a junior’s reflection on the Columbia trip

BLOT PHOTO BY BRI DAZIO
Surveying their choices for the next three days, CHS delegates Nina-Marie Amadeo and Olivia Iannone, both juniors of Middletown, chose the seminars they would attend. Several thousand high school  journalists were joined by professional journalists and educators from across the country who shared their knowledge and experience with the students.

BLOT PHOTO BY BRI DAZIO Surveying their choices for the next three days, CHS delegates Nina-Marie Amadeo and Olivia Iannone, both juniors of Middletown, chose the seminars they would attend. Several thousand high school journalists were joined by professional journalists and educators from across the country who shared their knowledge and experience with the students.

BLOT PHOTO BY BRI DAZIO Surveying their choices for the next three days, CHS delegates Nina-Marie Amadeo and Olivia Iannone, both juniors of Middletown, chose the seminars they would attend. Several thousand high school  journalists were joined by professional journalists and educators from across the country who shared their knowledge and experience with the students.

BLOT PHOTO BY BRI DAZIO
Surveying their choices for the next three days, CHS delegates Nina-Marie Amadeo and Olivia Iannone, both juniors of Middletown, chose the seminars they would attend. Several thousand high school journalists were joined by professional journalists and educators from across the country who shared their knowledge and experience with the students.

By OLIVIA IANNONE

The very stones of Columbia University emit wisdom. It’s hard not to walk across campus and think of the thousands of students and scholars whose feet beat the rock and concrete paths smooth on their personal quests for knowledge.

So it’s not surprising to me that I learned more there in three days than I ever have in such a short period of time.

From March 19 to the 22, Columbia, an Ivy League institution located in uptown Manhattan, hosted its 89th annual Columbia Scholastic Press Association Spring Convention. High school journalism students from across the country gathered to collaborate, exchange ideas and attend seminars hosted by a diverse group of professionals and educators. The attendees included myself and nine other Inkblot contributors accompanied by our adviser  Andi Mulshine.

Though the bulk of the presenters were journalists and educators, some broke the mold. My lecturers included an enthusiastic poet, a melodic-voiced Brit who talked me through a five-minute meditation session, a photojournalist whose mannerisms bore an uncanny resemblance to those of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory and a cynical marketing manager who almost managed to crush my dream of being a writer.

Mine was just one possibility out of a list of combinations as extensive as the routes one could take through the streets of Manhattan. As much as each Inkblot member learned, we each only scratched the surface of what the conference held.

And we came away with more than some new journalism tips. Savanna Eosso won a copy of Adobe Lightroom for her photo, which was selected as one of the three best shots taken on a New York evening from a roomful of aspiring photojournalists. Mrs. Mulshine was honored with the Gold Key award, recognition of her “outstanding devotion to the cause of the school press.” Editors buzzed with ideas for layouts, stories and management. And Tyler Paley walked out confident in the fact that he could transform the Inkblot’s website into something stellar if he could get his hands on $300.

Myself? The most valuable gift this conference gave me was inspiration. Inspiration to take more photography, to start a blog, to keep a journal and to try my hand at literary journalism. This very story is my first attempt at the last item. And I doubt I’m the only attendee who can make this claim.

What’s more, the emotions surrounding the event were heightened by the simple experience of existing in New York City. Our group learned how to say “toppings” in Flemish at a waffle cart on 79th Street (“dinges”) and was whipped by nighttime winds atop the Empire State Building. We saw homeless people and wide-eyed children; smelled both pizza and sewage. As we walked, the thud-thud of subways beneath the pavement vibrated through the soles of our shoes like a magnified heartbeat.

Sure, our brains were filled to capacity with writing skills, photography tips and story ideas, but the city itself showed us why these skills were so valuable. New York is only a small piece of the world. There is a lot to see, absorb and experience: so much that one person can’t get close to doing it alone. As journalists, it’s our duty to transmit our observations, research and experiences to others: to give them a little more of the world than they would have had otherwise.

This piece is written in literary/gonzo journalism, a style Olivia Iannone was introduced to at a seminar on the trip. It serves as a middle ground between opinion and features.

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