Marginalia, Graduate Blog

Columbia: the Land of Opportunities

Danielle Dwyer

Out reporting on my first day in Columbia's Journalism MA program.

Out reporting on my first day in Columbia’s Journalism MA program.

I continually get the question of, “What opportunities have you experienced at Columbia?”

Those of you who have read my blogs or my bio before know that I worked in advertising for two years before coming to Columbia to pursue my dream job of becoming a sportscaster.

I was just like many of you and asked the same questions. Graduate school is a big decision regardless of whether you’re coming straight from undergrad or leaving behind a job and paycheck like I was.

I remember countless hours of research and debate about the Journalism MA program. I remember reaching out to my ambassador. I remember asking her the same question— “What opportunities and hands-on experiences can I get from this program?

And I remember how great it sounded, but still wondering, “Would this really be the case?” and “Am I really going to get all those opportunities?”

Now that I am nearing that two-thirds mark in the program, I can confidently answer that question myself: yes.

The catch: What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. Initiative is key.

The first semester is very focused on print and digital media, which is great because the industry is growing towards multimedia journalists being the desired in the newsroom.

Interviewing David Axelrod following the Chicago Sun-Times' event: Politics Early & Often.

Interviewing David Axelrod following the Chicago Sun-Times’ event: Politics Early & Often.

Prior to this program I had never used a DSLR camera to take pictures, let alone use it for photos, videos and in-person interviews. The digital journalism class honed in on teaching and developing skills to use DSLR cameras in a journalistic way—to not only tell, but also show the story. Through weekly reporting and feedback I was able to let my creative side shine through and report on two great businesses in the Pilsen neighborhood. Those stories turned into multimedia pieces—written and a photo, video, audio slideshow—and were published on the Pilsen Portal.

Here

and Here.

Who would have thought I had only just removed the DSLR out of the shipping box about two months prior to completing both of these.

Although the fall semester is very focused on print writing skills and digital media, there are opportunities to gain on-camera and broadcast writing experience.

Windycitywebcast.tv holds auditions within the first two weeks of the fall and spring semesters for anyone interested in getting on-camera and broadcast experience. There are several categories—everything from headline news to fashion to sports, movie reviews and Chicago events. There are even Spanish news and entertainment segments for anyone who is fluent in both writing and speaking the language.

Love Monday mornings because they consist of on-camera experience!

Love Monday mornings because they consist of on-camera experience!

I auditioned in the fall and have been a part of the Windy City Webcast reporters ever since. It has been a great experience that has given me a platform and opportunities to write and tape weekly segments that are featured online.

I also developed relationships with faculty and fellow students that have led to producing my own TV package off a previous story and an amazing opportunity that I am actually in the midst of packing for.

Fellow journalism student Angelica Sanchez and I working late on TV magic.

Fellow journalism student Angelica Sanchez and I working late on TV magic.

This TV package, which is also featured on windycitywebcast.tv, along with a reference and application essays, has earned me a position with the StudioXperience at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas. This is a week-long internship that will provide me with further hands-on broadcasting experience and a great networking opportunity with many professionals in all aspects of the industry. I am beyond excited and know this would not be possible without the hard work, initiative and relationships I have been able to develop through Windy City Webcast.

My weekly webcasts have also helped me earn other reporting opportunities both on and off-campus.

At the end of the fall semester I was able to spend two days hosting the Frequency TV show Hoods. In the show I had the opportunity to interview various show guests, participate in a cooking demonstration, taste test Asian candies and serve as the host to describe the details of each featured neighborhood.

Although Columbia’s Journalism MA program is focused on reporting public affairs, I have also been able to report in my passion: sports.

Prepping for pre-game interviews.

Prepping for pre-game interviews.

I was able to serve as a pre-game interviewer and sideline reporter for a local women’s basketball game, and I’m closing in on the final weeks of being the weekly podcaster for the Div. III men’s Continental Volleyball Conference website. As a podcaster, I give weekly recaps of game results, interviews with the player of the week and provide upcoming match schedules for 13 teams.

Covering the CVC match between Thiel College and host team Carthage College.

Covering the CVC match between Thiel College and host team Carthage College.

As for internship opportunities, we have a top-notch internship director that is extremely helpful and instrumental in the process.

Although I was not able to accept a Chicago sports internship position for the spring semester, I have committed to a sports TV reporting internship with Fox 29 in Philadelphia, Penn. I cannot even put into words how blessed and excited I feel to embark on this journey. While I’m a bit sad I won’t be spending the summer in Chicago, it is a great opportunity to gain experience in the No. 4 market, network myself outside of Chicago and hopefully open doors for future Columbia students to intern there.

The famous Bean in Chicago's Millennium Park.

The famous Bean in Chicago’s Millennium Park.

Did I mention it will be the “year of travel” for me?

I will return to Chicago for my last semester, however, it will be for a short time as I was accepted into the Semester in L.A. program that Columbia offers. This is a great 6-week program that allows students—both graduate and undergrad—to go to L.A. and take courses focused on entertainment reporting. This is also a multimedia opportunity, but presents plenty of broadcast capabilities, which I’m really looking for. And for anybody out there who is a sports fanatic like me, the program even does a sports reporting segment where they bring in the team reporters from the city’s various professional teams.

Let’s not forget the endless amount of opportunities to get work published on Chicago Talks and Austin Talks. Or the various specified classes of interest such as advanced sports reporting (of course I’m in this class), social media storytelling, advanced digital media, magazine writing, obituary writing, etc.

Touring the Senate floor with Illinois Sen. John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago) during our reporting in Springfield trip.

Touring the Senate floor with Illinois Sen. John G. Mulroe (D-Chicago) during our reporting in Springfield trip.

As someone who came into this program with lingering doubts, I am here to assure you that the opportunity is there, but it is up to you to take the initiative and make the most of your Columbia experience.

Columbia: the Land of Opportunities

I continually get the question of, “What opportunities have you experienced at Columbia?” Those of you who have read my blogs or my bio before know that I worked in …

Journalism MA Danielle Dwyer, danielledwyer14@yahoo.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience