Friday, September 25, 2009

Reporting for The Washington Post

By Hojung Lee (Ellicott City, MD)

A pen, a reporter's notepad and a tape recorder: these used to be all the materials I needed to report these past few years. This past summer, however, I carried around an SLR digital camera and a Marantz PMD660, a professional portable digital recorder.

I was fortunate in being selected for The Washington Post Digital Workshop, a 5-day, intensive course teaching us how to incorporate multimedia in our reporting and show viewers something more than the written word.

When two of my fellow journalists and I pitched a story about how the recession affects schools around the D.C. metropolitan area, we struggled with how we could execute the piece successfully through multimedia. After all, visual effects are the linchpins of multimedia -- but we were unable to show the strong visual side of the story such as the lack of teachers and big classroom sizes because schools were empty over the summer. Time was ticking and we had to prove to our supervisors that we could make this work.

I bombarded principals and communications officers in the D.C. metropolitan area with phone calls and emails. The waiting time for their responses was agonizing but as replies came, some schools informed me that they were going through renovations and construction. This led to a conclusion that even though schools face economic hardships with teachers' salaries being frozen and students' families suffering from housing foreclosures, schools were trying their best to maintain the status quo by prioritizing education and providing a good learning environment.

We then plunged ourselves in interviews, working simultaneously with audio recording and photographs. This was very tricky to do because the photographer had to make sure every second that he or she takes photos, the audio recorder was not playing so that the camera shutter sound wouldn't interfere with the speaker's recorded voice. After hours of interviewing, traveling, and iPhone map navigating, I got back to the newsroom of the Post, exhausted. Now it was time for the hardest, most time-consuming part of the job: editing.

Overall, my group had over 700 photos and about two hours of recording. From this, we could only choose 20 photos and 2 minutes of recordings for about a three-minute-long audio slideshow. In addition,  all of the different audio recordings and photos had to be arranged so that it flowed and connected thematically.

The task was burdensome, especially because we only had a few days to complete the project. On top of a stack of photos and voice recordings, we also had to master Mac software we were unfamiliar with. We had to make sure that every second of the edited voice recording did not abruptly start or end,  that the volume was high enough, that there was natural sound incorporated with the human voice, that sometimes the voice fades in and out and that the timing of photos matched the recordings. Fortunately, with generous help from the Post's multimedia journalist volunteers, we made the deadline and left the Post building, fatigued, eyes bloodshot but ultimately proud of our work.

This experience was not just about handling fancy equipment or meeting renowned and well-recognized Post journalists. Rather, it was an opportunity that opened up a door for me to the world of journalism and the digital era -- journalism is no longer just about pens, notepads, and tape recorders. It is also about adapting to the new age of multimedia.

--Hojung Lee is a senior at Mount Hebron High School and a 2008 alumna of the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Behind the scenes at The Daily Princetonian: Writing Obituaries

By Tasnim Shamma (Jamaica, NY)

Yesterday was extremely draining. Having woken up at 7:30 A.M. for some odd reason, I could already sense that it was going to be a long day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sudoku-ing the stress away

(Photo Credit:
By Vanessa Flores-Maldonado (Los Angeles, California)

Yes, dear friends, I am addicted to Sudoku.

I know, I know, I should not be wasting time playing this wonderful game especially when my "To Do List" is equivalent in  size to the encyclopedia, but I need Sudoku.

Everyone has their own thing when they are stressed. Some cry, others draw, maybe they'll even break out in song. And while I do many other things to relax, I would say that when I start playing Sudoku, I really really am stressed out.

And how could I not be? College applications, internship, AP classes, family! Oh, and Questbridge due in 2 weeks!

While I am super excited for graduation (9 months! exactly), time really is going by. I mean, wasn't it just the other day that we were being held up by Chiquita Bandita?

It's our last year of high school before we disseminate (SAT WORD!) into the world. We are off to college, starting our own lives, getting our first jobs, meeting new people, and just being on our own. It's quite surprising how we just have months before we are thrust into the world.

I'm excited.

But, in order to make sure that I'll be able to survive said world, I should finish up all work I have for my classes, SAT prep, internship, newspaper (editor in chief :D), senior project, and make take a breather somewhere in that list.

As soon as I finish playing this round of Sudoku.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Funding a high school newspaper

By A.J. Kazlouski (Colorado Springs, CO) 

The Sentinel, our school paper of which I am the Chief Designer, is completely broke. In fact, we're $1,000 in the hole. Plus, we're hitting a rough patch in finding advertisements.

This is a bit of a problem.

Tomorrow we're doing an advertising blitz, and we'll probably do something similar next Saturday as well. It's a ridiculous process trying to get ads.

A lot of the time you get shut down, a lot of the time you try and try with no luck. It gets disheartening, for sure. But we can't put out our first issue if we don't have the funds to produce it, because we obviously can't stack up any more debt. It just astounds me how local businesses don't jump on the idea of getting ads right where students are looking!

Hopefully it all works out. I'll send an e-mail to the local library to see if they're interested right after I finish this blog post.

Also, college stuff is really getting to me. I'm freaking out a bit. But I don't feel like writing about it in hopes that I can get my mind off of it for just a second.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The SJP support network

 From left, top row: SJP founding director Greg Mancini '01, counselor Ben Crair (UPenn '07), SJP founding director Richard Just '01. Bottom row: Counselor Becky Myers (Duke '04), SJP founding director Michael Koike '01, counselor Melisa Gao '06 and SJP founding director Rich Tucker '01. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99)
By Alexandria Sharpe (Brooklyn, NY)

I see it already in my fellow SJP students: stress over the college application process. What I also see is gratefulness that we have the support of everyone from the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program.

This is the beginning of the process but I have already needed their support, and for that I have not had to look far.

So far I have shared excitement with Amanda Cormier (SJP '07/Columbia ’12) over going to schools on the same island, picked Keith Griffin’s (SJP '05/Princeton ’10) brain about the world, received extremely useful SAT prep advice from Rubén Gaytan Lemus (SJP '07/Yale ’12), blasted e-mails out to two of the four SJP founding directors Richard Just '01 and Greg Mancini '01, quizzed Andrew Boryga (SJP '08/Cornell ’13) on the world of early decision, shared my college concerns with another student Reem Abdou, maintained a close bond with my former roommate and “California sister” Joanne Yi and bugged Tasnim Shamma (SJP '06/Princeton ’11) on just about EVERYTHING (all while keeping up a Facebook thread with students Ana Rivera, Brianda Reyes, Jancey Taveras and Melissa Sanchez).

The students I mentioned have said that they don’t know what they would be doing if it were not for SJP. The truth is, many of us would have been lost. I keep it in my mind and I hope all fellow SJP '09 students do as well: we all have the support of one another during this pivotal process.

While all seniors from our respective high schools will be feeling the same, we are the fortunate few who have had this experience.

Now a month has passed since we all stayed at an Ivy League University with students from all around the country who shared a common interest. Although plane tickets and train tickets parted our ways, we still stay in touch. This is what is important because it is the encouragement we have from each other that will keep us determined to succeed in the college admissions process.

I miss you all and I wish you the best of luck.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

College admissions fatigue

By Jay Kim (Los Angeles, California)

It’s been a couple of weeks since SJP ’09 met its closure. But those goodbyes and those tears were only the beginning of a what has already proven will be a very long journey..

I remember walking behind SJP founding director Michael Koike '01, who was helping me with a suitcase that was now filled with SAT review material and college guide books, thinking, “it seemed like yesterday I walked down this very road behind Tasnim (SJP '06/Princeton '11) to meet our SJP intern Izzy (Isabel Schwab '11) for the first time, and to enter that Scully dorm room that housed me for 10 days, and now we’re walking down the same path only to go back home.” I remember feeling that unsettling heaviness in my heart when I departed California on July 31st, wondering if I would get along with anyone or if I would actually enjoy the experience..

But my own feelings right now and those I felt on the day that I left are proof of how wrong I was. SJP has been a “life changing experience” and as cliché as that sounds, it's true..

I’m a high school senior now and walking down the corridors and the packed hallways of my overcrowded high school of 4,500, I see the scared and sometimes excited faces of freshmen. I can easily pick out the students who have arrived straight from middle school – it’s just too easy. But seeing their small and innocent faces reminds me of myself when I entered those daunting high school gates, and I laugh. It’s fun to reminisce about how long you’ve come along – about how much you’ve grown.

I see those freshmen and I think, “they’ll be going through what I’m feeling now in exactly 3 years, and they have no idea what it’s like to be feeling like this.”.

This whole college process is wearing me down. I’m sick – maybe a sign of my fatigue or lack of sleep, but a definite hindrance to my motivation. Coming back home from Princeton, I was charged and motivated; I knew what I had to do and what I wanted. But being home and being at Princeton is different, perhaps far too different to even describe. I miss the Princeton that made me felt like I was on top of the world and that with simple effort and motivation anything could be tackled and conquered..

Back home in California it’s quite different. I asked one classmate, who is ranked among the top five at my school, where he wanted to attend for college. He replied nonchalantly, “Princeton’s my first choice.” I simply shifted my eyes towards my new shiny binder and didn’t say anything afterwards. My top choice is Princeton too. Though there’s competition, I never imagined that hearing those words coming from the science bowl captain’s mouth would scare me that much.

Maybe it’s because Princeton helped me to finally realize that I’m actually at that “fork in the road,” and that I need to muster the courage and effort to pick it up and try my best in the college admissions process*. And that this fork in the road will determine a large portion of my life. I’m hoping that I’ll look back on this blog post several months from now and laugh, in the same exact manner I laugh when I think about my freshmen year. I’m hoping that a couple of months from now, despite the struggles in between, the road I’ll be traveling on will be the better of the two from the fork..

And until that day, I will continue to fight on to get into the best college I can. Discouraged or not, the whole war is about fighting until death. Not literally, of course.

*An inside joke - Woodrow Wilson School professor Stan Katz encouraged SJPers to "take the fork in the road" and a student thought the expression meant there was a literal fork in the middle of the road one must pick up.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Returning to Colorado ... and school

A.J. Kazlouski helps lay out the paper on the last night. (Photo Credit: Joanne Yi).

By A.J. Kazlouski (Colorado Springs, CO)

When we all went our separate ways home, we were all having a rough time. We all couldn't help but cry a little, or a lot, we all had our problems at the airport (some more than others), and I learned a lot of us still had some summer school work to do. I had some to do. I still do, actually. But the one thing that I dealt with that thankfully no one else had to after SJP was the first day of school...the very next day.

My flight on August 10 landed around 10. Then from Denver, it took about an hour and a half to get back to Colorado Springs... and after the last ten days, I just couldn't go to sleep! I had to talk about it all! I don't remember when I went to sleep that night, but probably later than I should have!

I woke up this morning, 5:45 am, bright and early! I got to see my girlfriend for a little, and I'm ECSTATIC. But 7:15 rolls around, so I go off to something else I love... our high school paper The Sierra Sentinel, Journalism II, Period 1. There's not TOO much explanation about Princeton, considering we have new students to train, but I show off The Princeton Summer Journal to the other editors...who love it! I pretty much blab about Princeton the whole rest of the day whenever I could, though.

It's now 9:15 pm and I'm exhausted. But as happy as I am to be here with my girlfriend, my newspaper, my mom, my dogs, my friends, and everyone and everything else ... It still kills me knowing the friends I made at the SJP are so far away. So, in a long, roundabout way, I just wanted to say I love you all. Students, directors, counselors, the intern, speakers ... you're all so incredible. It may be cliché at this point, but I know we'll be together again.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Returning to California

SJPers depart from Scully Hall to the airport and train station to return home. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99). 
By Joanne Yi (Los Angeles, CA)

Leaving Princeton was such a stressful time for the students flying back. After we parted with the group heading up to New York, the airport group and I faced a lot of problems: malfunctioning of the airtrain, terrible service at the Continental desk and, worst of all, major delay aboard the plane. Throughout the whole time, many of us felt so much anxiety and frustration. Why should going home be so hard? I ended up arriving in L.A. at 1 in the morning.

Despite the craziness of the last day, I miss it all. When I woke up this morning, it was unnatural that I did not have a door banging alarm to wake me up. It was odd that when I went to the bathroom, Alex was not next to me so that we could brush our teeth together. It was strange that I was not surrounded by all the SJPers in the Scully Hall Commonroom on the third floor. No more meals at Rockefeller, no more sleepless nights, no more fickle weather. No more friendly counselors, no more intelligent peers, no more atmosphere of motivation.

I know that we will always have Facebook, Twitter, AIM, cell phones, Skype, Oovoo, and all the many forms of communication to make us feel as if we were next to one another, but it will never be the same. The 10 days are over. Even though I won't see some of the people ever again, the memories will always be with me, and that is most important. The things I learned, the things i did have influenced me and will continue to in the future as I and my fellow SJPers apply for college and go on to do great things with our lives.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

SJP 2009 Slideshow

A video showcasing the week's activities by SJP counselor Amanda Cormier (SJP '07/Columbia '12).

Read The Princeton Summer Journal

After 10 days of hard work interviewing, reporting and writing, students produced The Princeton Summer Journal. Read it here.

The Final Banquet

Reem Abdou, a student from Fort Lee, NJ, proposes a toast at the final banquet at Prospect House. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Reem Abdou (Fort Lee, NJ)

The banquet in Prospect Hall was an emotional affair.

Never before have I felt the tears well up in my eyes but refuse to fall, simply because it would make everything all the more real. Never have I wished my arms long enough to wrap everyone around me in one tender hug. Never did I think that I would feel great sadness and pain but also pride and joy at the same time.

I looked across at the four, round white-clothed tables around me that seated my fellow journalists and friends, the incomparable counselors and directors and distinguished guests and supporters of the program and I knew that cathartic crying wouldn’t be enough. I wanted to cry, of course, but I also wanted to laugh, to smile, to hug everyone until I couldn’t feel anything anymore. The conflicting emotions coursed violently through my body and prompted me to deliver an impromptu toast in which I especially recognized the incredible directors and founders of the program along with every single participant of SJP.

A little while later, one of the directors delivered his own speech. Now, I’ve heard President Obama’s Inauguration address and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” oration, but believe me when I write that neither has moved me the way Richard Just did. Maybe it was his disarmingly simplistic deliverance that resonated more than any lilting cadence ever could. Or maybe it was the way that he made kind eye contact with each and every individual in the room, as if he was our reassuring brother or father, and not one of the four, great Princeton alumni who, eight years ago, set out to diversify newsrooms and give underprivileged students opportunities they could never imagine. I don’t know what it was, but that day, his touching speech inspired and encouraged all of us in ways we did not expect.

And as we filed out of Prospect House, I vowed to make my fellow journalists and friends, the incomparable counselors and directors, and the distinguished guests and supports of the program proud. I promised to keep in touch with everyone and even come to Princeton once again, maybe as a student, but even more surely, as a counselor. I pledged that I’d uphold the true values and ideals of journalistic integrity whether I ended up a journalist or even an investment banker. And more fervently that anything else, I swore that no matter what, I would “never stop believing.”

The Star-Ledger EIC on the future of the industry

The boardroom where the editors of The Star-Ledger meet three times a day to discuss the content for the next day's paper. (Photo Credit: Tasnim Shamma '11)
By Tasnim Shamma (Jamaica, NY)

Every Tuesday, editorial interns are invited to boardroom lunch sessions with editors and journalists at The Star-Ledger. For our final session, we were honored to have Jim Willse, our editor-in-chief, as our speaker.

I was happy to learn that he would be teaching a "Business of News" journalism seminar at Princeton, which I hope to take in the spring semester. His talk, incidentally, also focused on the business of news and revolutionizing the model (prefaced though by the fact that the figures mentioned during the meeting involved a hypothetical newspaper and that none of the ideas he posed were definitive plans for The Star-Ledger). Willse was the former editor and publisher of The New York Daily News.

With ad revenue suffering in comparison to previous years, he proposed a possible remodeling of the cost structure of newspapers. What were formerly "assets" (printing presses and trucks) are now liabilities. By outsourcing the printing and delivery, a lot of money could be saved. He said newspapers could also save millions of dollars by eliminating television listings (which is heavily tied to demographics of an older audience) and baseball box scores (which he thinks will probably never happen). Another million dollars could also be saved by reducing the size of the paper itself: The Star-Ledger has plans to reduce the width of its own paper from 50 inches to 46 inches.

His second point was that nearly all of the advertising revenue comes from three days -- Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. By printing three days a week and relying on a news website on other days, a news company could still effectively inform its readers. The Star-Ledger’s website,
, was recently ranked 11th in the nation by Editor & Publisher, with a 105 percent increase in only one year.

Willse added that The Star-Ledger plans to take full advantage of its website and videos, a
s the largest video newsroom in New Jersey (there are no major television stations in the state).

Despite the gloomy circumstances surrounding the industry, as long as the essence of journalism survives, which involves spending lots of time with people, learning from them and uncovering the truth -- Willse said he was optimistic.

"I think we'll be okay, but it will take a few more earthquakes to get there," he said.

-- Shamma is a senior writer for The Daily Princetonian, a rising junior at Princeton and a 2006 alumna of the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program. She returned this summer to volunteer as a counselor.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Sleep deprivation: A natural part of SJP

Students taking a short nap after lunch in the Rockefeller College common room. (Photo Credit: Gohar Chichian).
By Brianda Reyes (Garland, TX)

Throughout the program, we have been reminded over and over to differentiate between opinion and fact, between telling the straight news and editorializing. If someone were to say: “Fact or opinion?: The SJP kids were sleepy,” you would obviously decide the answer was “opinion.” Wrong. By now the lack of sleep and the extreme amount of exhaustion is so visible that it is a fact.

In attempts to spend as much time possible, some SJP students would stay up talking and absorbing as much information about the others as they could. Often, we’d say that we could always catch up on sleep later, but the next morning, we’d suffer. We struggled to remain awake, especially after eating; something I liked to refer to as “food sleepiness.” But, as we filed into our dorm rooms, we would be there, once again, making plans about where and what time to meet. It is ironic that although we came here to learn, we never learned from our mistakes…well, not that particular mistake anyway.

But, if you saw us when we were not eating, you’d never imagine that we only had a few hours of sleep. Our passion for journalism and our dedication to the truth gave us the extra energy we needed to stay awake and complete the task at hand. We didn’t need to dream at night because our dreams of success kept us up during the day.

The power of language

SJPers taking a break from reporting during the baseball game between the Newark Bears and Long Island Ducks. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Jancey Taveras (Newark, NJ)

The popcorn popped, the players played baseball and the music was tuned to the beat. While the Newark Bears played the opposition team The Long Island Ducks, many of us engaged in one of the world’s most powerful forms of communication during breaks from reporting on the game: the power of being able to speak in more than one language.

There I was sitting in the blue stadium seat as the fluorescent lights illuminated the stadium. Not only was I surrounded by my follow peers, counselors and directors, but I was also surrounded by an abundance of languages. We all spoke English (of course), but others also spoke Spanish, French, Armenian, German, Korean, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Creole, or a combination of two or more (Counselor Ruben Gaytan Lemus SJP '07/Yale '12 was the exception -- he can speak French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, and some Russian). Some learned to speak other languages through their parents, schools, or out of mere curiosity.

“Podemos hablar en español , por favor?” Counselor Marion Smallwood (SJP '07/UPenn '12) asked in Spanish and it was this question that sparked the usage of other languages into our conversations.

Counselors Marion, Krystal Valentin (SJP '07/Princeton '12), Tasnim Shamma (SJP '06/Princeton '11) and I talked some Spanish, we next talked French, some Bengali, back to French, and then Spanish again.

Can you repeat that? How do you say that again? Can you pronounce it in a better way? What?! It’s too loud -- can you please say it slower?

Throughout the baseball game these were the only questions that required us to use our common language, English. Though interrupted by our common language, for the most part we all learned sayings, words, or anything we did not know how to say. And the fact that we were learning was fun.

The diversity of languages in some way, shape, or form united us; the unity was formed by our learning and language. Even though we spoke a variety of languages, it was as if were only speaking one.

Introductions to goodbyes

SJP counselor Julie Wood hugs a student on the last day. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Leslie Gallardo (Chicago, IL)

These last moments I find myself wondering how I will feel after leaving the program. Many smiling faces will be missing. Another student and I were talking about all the times we ate ice cream in our newspaper team meetings. Time went by fast! Wow…. I still remember the first time I introduced myself as “Hi! I’m Leslie Gallardo, and I’m from Chicago.”

Now everyone will remember me with those words. The questions we all asked to our speakers were very interesting. Especially Nate’s question, “What is your definition of a successful journalist?” Although many inspiring journalists pointed us to different paths, we learned the true definition at SJP, it's about passion and curiosity.

Ana Rivera, another SJP student, became frightened after she remembered that curiosity killed the cat, but realized that when there is a fork on the road, she should just "pick it up" and follow her dreams. This journalism program has been fantastic and superior to all the other programs there are in the country. All students have learned to appreciate each other and we have bonded in a unique way that no other group has.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Deadline stress

Students David Aguilar (Salinas, CA) and Wing Cheung (New York,NY) work quickly to meet article deadlines in the newsroom. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Wing Cheung (New York, NY)

It was 12:00 AM. The clicking of the keyboard keys filled the room. People scurried between the rows of tables, rushing to finalize their work and trying to account for what had been submitted.

I stared at my computer screen with sore eyes, anxious to make sense of the scrambled sentences and jumbled paragraphs that would eventually be my article. Each clause was a piece of a larger puzzle that delineated a message about one of society’s many untold stories. I grew more anxious with the passing of each minute because of the approaching deadline for the articles.

Sitting around me were my peers, who were as desperate as I was in trying to meet the deadline. I watched them work and noticed how eager they were to perfect their piece. It was then that I realized that none of us were trying to achieve the mere goal of getting our names published in a byline. We wrote our articles because we enjoyed being journalists.

While deadlines can be stressful to work with, they are a realistic element in the actual practice of journalism. This paper that we have produced has provided us with an informative experience that allows us to recognize the conditions under which professional journalists work.

An alumnus reflects on SJP: Ariel Estevez (Cornell '09)

Yesterday was alumni day at SJP. Fifteen graduates of the program (who have gone on to attend Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Penn, and other top schools) spoke to current students about the college admissions process and college life.

Ariel Estevez, an alumnus from 2005 and recent graduate from Cornell University talks about his experience at SJP, being the first from his high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn to be accepted at an Ivy League university and advice for current students.

An alumna reflects on SJP: Sabienne Brutus (Tufts '13)

Yesterday was alumni day at SJP. Fifteen graduates of the program (who have gone on to attend Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Penn, and other top schools) spoke to current students about the college admissions process and college life.

Sabienne Brutus, an alumna from 2008 and an incoming freshman at Tufts University talks about her future plans when she arrives at Tufts in the fall and thanks the directors for their dedication in the video below.

Dancing to the music

After days of hard work, SJPers let loose in the newsroom (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).

By Gohar Chichian (Queens, NY)

As we sit here exchanging laughs and inside jokes, I can’t help but be amazed by all the people and I have come to meet and become friends with. Everyone here is from a diverse background, with differing opinions and beliefs, yet we have somehow come together and become close friends. The experiences shared in the past 10 days have united us and many have bonded over the love of journalism and wanting to do something important with our lives.

I regret that time is now our enemy, and is quickly running out. But as we dance and sing and laugh in unison, I know that the people I have met here have made an impact on my life. I have learned different things and shared different experiences with each person, and what was most amazing about every student was their willingness to accept and understand one another. I will take away everything I have learned at Princeton and will apply it at home. But this goes beyond journalism and learning to write—I have learned about friendship, determination, and wisdom. I am going to miss everyone I have met at Princeton, and I know, as we sing and dedicate songs to each of our counselors, that I will always cherish these memories.

Overcoming adversity without excuses

Elizabeth Davis, center, listens during the Broadcast Journalism workshop taught by Melvin McCray '74, an editor at ABC News "World News Tonight" (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Elizabeth Davis (Detroit, MI)

“Excuses are the tools of the incompetent. Used to build bridges to nowhere and monuments of nothingness. Those who use them seldom amount to anything. Therefore, there are NO excuses.”

My creative writing teacher in middle school used to have our class memorize that quote and if one of us ever tried to give him an excuse for any reason, he would have us recite it. He never asked why the student didn’t turn in his or her work or when he or she was going to. All my teacher wanted was to hear the quote. I understood his purpose, but now that I look back, I see how ineffective it was.

My teacher wanted us to realize that no one wants your excuses and that they are unacceptable. To the class, as young, immature students, it was just a way to get out of trouble. No one actually realized how important those words are. But I do ...

I see those words in the faces of all 23 of us in this program. We didn’t use our circumstances in life as excuses or for pity. We all rose above the level of the unmotivated, pity-seeking others who let their situations in life control their actions towards the future. I can tell from the actions of the other 22 brilliant students in this program that they didn’t let anything hold them back from coming here. We gave and took no excuses.

Come in and be ready to learn and be challenged. Leave your excuses at the door.

An alumnus reflects on SJP: Andrew Boryga (Cornell '13)

Yesterday was alumni day at SJP. Fifteen graduates of the program (who have gone on to attend Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Penn, and other top schools) spoke to current students about the college admissions process and college life.

Andrew Boryga, an alumnus from 2008 and an incoming freshman at Cornell University talks about his experience at SJP and his summer internship at The New York Times in the video below.

A renewal of confidence

Emery Ahoua reads an article during the "What is Journalism?" workshop last Saturday. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Emery Ahoua (Newark, NJ)

I was always told that I was a talented person, a young man that could be successful if he played his cards right. I never believed that. I always felt the pressure of succeeding in all my endeavors to such an extent that I was afraid to be labeled a failure. Applying to this program was a crucial step, which forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

I still remember that rushed feeling of satisfaction as I opened my acceptance email and my immediate desire to acquaint myself with the other participants. Instead of getting reassured, I was nervous when I heard about the other students’ standardized test scores and the many things they have done in their communities and schools. Although my resume matched some of the other students’ resumes, I felt like my acceptance into the program was a mistake.These last ten days have taught me otherwise. I saw in myself a talent that was always there but hidden, a burning fire that never lost its flame but was ignored. The Princeton University Summer Journalism Program has ignited that fire and has given me a chance to do something that I am passionate about: journalism.

The directors and counselors of the program have taught me so much and shown me that I am worth their attention. They have reestablished my confidence, a confidence that is needed to be successful and to be a journalist both through a vigorous schedule and inspiring speeches.

More importantly the program has left an immense impact -- I feel that there is no way for me to fully show my gratitude. This has become my new inspiration, not only to do well at school and get into a prestigious college but to turn back and help those behind me. The directors have been father figures to me these last ten days and have been that guiding light that I have always sought.

An inside perspective on the alumni panel

SJP Alumni were invited to return to this year's program to motivate the students and offer advice. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99). 
By Xiu Zhen Fang (New York, NY)

Yesterday, I was invited to return to speak at the SJP alumni panel and one thing I realized that all of the speakers had in common was the degree to which SJP has changed our lives. One of the alums of the program became the first one from his high school in Bushwick, Brooklyn to go to an Ivy League school. For another alumna, the intellectual atmosphere of the program inspired her and better prepared her for college.

For me, SJP transformed me from a timid girl to a more confident person. They not only helped me during the college application process, but also made me realize my potential and I was no longer afraid to assert myself. When I had problems, I was able to e-mail or talk to them on the phone and they were always so encouraging and supportive.

While many of us are still pursuing journalism careers, when asked about how many of us have actually decided to go into the field of journalism after college, some expressed hesitancy. This is partly because we're still in college, deciding what path we would like to take as we are exposed to many different kinds of fields and also because of the current state of the journalism industry and its unpredictability. But one thing I'm certain about is our passion for journalism will remain the same and the difference the counselors have made on every single student of the program will be everlasting.

-- Fang is a freshman at Georgetown University and participated in the program in the summer of 2008.

More than "life-changing"

Nathaniel Reel (Bronx, NY), left, interviews Valerie Briseno (Laredo, TX) during the "Broadcast Journalism" workshop. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).

By Brianda Reyes (Garland, TX)

Describing this ten-day program as “life-changing” wouldn’t do it justice. During the past nine days, I’ve felt more accepted and understood than ever before in my life. All four of the directors, each with their own personality, were more than supportive: they were encouraging. Having already gone through the same experience, the counselors were willing to help and guide us through difficult moments. Although at first slightly reserved, we, the students, soon became close friends and developed bonds that not even distance will be able to destroy.

We came for a journalism program and, while it’s true that we learned about journalism and techniques, we also learned about other things. While learning to differentiate between news and features, we learned to express our ideas more eloquently. As we listened to inspiring stories told by the guest speakers, we developed techniques of staying awake although we had only a few, if any, hours of sleep. We learned journalistic concepts of respecting others’ opinions, but as Richard Just, one of the directors, said, to never "tolerate" them. As we experienced broadcast journalism with our guest speaker ABC News Melvin McCray '74 and were coaxed into interviewing one another in front of professional cameras, we learned to be confident and comfortable with the person we are. When visiting The New York Times, CNN and The Daily Beast, we learned to work as a team and take care of one another.

We stayed up late talking about everything and anything while making fun of MTV videos. We walked in the heavy rain to the point where it looked like we’d all come out of a swimming pool. We complained about the insane amount of other camps in the University that made getting food an adventure. We burst into random bouts of applause. We sang along to Sean Kingston’s “Somebody Call 911.” We slowly, but surely, became a family: SJP ’09.

SJP 2009 Photo Slideshow: Through the Students' Eyes

Rise of the underdog

SJP alumni chat about their challenges and success with the college application process during an alumni panel discussion with the SJP 2009 group. (Photo Credit: Brain Rokus '99).
By Valerie Briseno (Laredo, Texas)

It was all a dream to me. I couldn’t believe I actually made it into the program. Even through the first few intense days of the program, I just couldn’t fully understand why or how I got chosen.

I felt like the underdog, not to mention very intimidated. The panel discussion with the SJP alumni was what really opened my eyes up and helped me realize I got to where I am because of my hard work and dedication.

I, like some of the other alumni, come from a low-performing high school. And, even with all the interruptions at school, I’ve strived to do the best and improve my abilities as much as possible. Living in a city that practically no one has heard of and being Hispanic plays a role in shaping expectations about my future success and their lack of belief in my abilities. When others don't believe in you, it's hard to believe in yourself.

I felt like many of the panelists in that I never thought that I could get into an Ivy League school such as Princeton because I wasn’t good enough for it. I was scared of having the directors and counselors disappointed in me if I didn’t get in. It was in my mindset that, no matter how good I thought I was, I wasn’t going to get accepted into a prestigious university.

The alumni, however, helped me understand that I wasn’t the only one that felt insecure. The panel answered so many of the questions I had, and somehow, helped me become more confident. I realize, now, that if you don’t believe in yourself no one else will believe in you.

Thanks to the alumni I know I can get anywhere I want to by simply dedicating myself and being confident about myself.

Adventures in the city

NYC residents and tourists enjoy Times Square on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99). 
By Alexandria Sharpe (Brooklyn, NY) 

Students of the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program class of 2009 woke up at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning on August 5, 2009 for a trip to New York City, which was a first for many students. The New York Times headquarters was the first of three tours that day. After exploring the building SJP students sat down with senior editor Greg Brock to pick his brain about the journalism and his experience in the field.

The next stop was The Daily Beast headquarters located in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. Our very own counselor Ben Crair is an associate editor for The Daily Beast and gave us a tour of the office. In a conference room located on the ninth floor, Crair introduced us to his editors Bryan Curtis and Michael Solomon.

The last stop was CNN, “home”  of Brian Rokus, a producer for CNN and a PUSJP counselor. It seemed he knew everyone on every floor. With his help and our tour guide at CNN we saw what goes on beyond the cameras. 

The day ended with a panel interview at Time and Life Inc. and an impromptu man-on-the-street interview with New Yorkers in the Rockefeller Center area. 

Journalism: From an interest to a passion

SJP 2009 poses in front of The New York Times building in New York City on Wednesday. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99). 

By David Aguilar (Salinas, CA)

Before coming to the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program, I knew I was interested in journalism. But the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program has made journalism more real -- it has made it a passion rather than just an interest. The program has also taught me the various journalistic aspects that go into reporting like overcoming shyness around strangers to get the information you need for a story.

The diversity of the program has had a positive effect on me. It has made me more open-minded and considerate of the views of those around me.  Asmaa Rimawi from Brooklyn, NY is the first Muslim I have ever met. Many people’s perception of Muslims back in Salinas, California are greatly influenced by the media.   But after meeting Asmaa, I am able to go back home and share my positive experiences with a Muslim. Hopefully, I can shine a little bit of knowledge on their bias by telling them about Asmaa. She is an amazing person and I’m grateful to have met her.

I’ve also learned that diverse environments are places where I thrive best even after realizing through this program that with diversity come challenges. I think this is because of the journalistic curiosity burning inside of me and my relentless persistence to solving conflicts.

Dedication is a major part of the program and a characteristic that is shared by both students and counselors. Knowing that everybody around me is dedicated makes me push myself to complete my writing even when I have writers block and I’m not sure what to do next

Because of SJP, I found my niche in the world of journalism. The various reporting experiences I’ve had have allowed me to decide what suits me best as a journalist. I found that sports’ writing is something that I feel great comfort doing and I want to pursue my new found passion.

The memories of The Princeton University Summer Journalism Program will without a doubt last a life time.

Eating, drinking and (not) sleeping journalism

Founding director Rich Tucker '01 brings in food for the SJP students in the Friend Center. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99). 

By Reem Abdou (Fort Lee, NJ)

It’s day nine of the program but it feels like I’ve only been in Princeton for nine minutes. Time becomes irrelevant when you eat, drink, and sleep—or don’t—journalism. My very first day was chock full of moments brimming with anxiety, excitement and homesickness. Now, nearing the end of my time here, I still feel ready to burst in anxiety, excitement and homesickness. It sort of feels as if the time in between the very first and last days were just endless hours of workshops, speakers and writing.

But the funny thing is, in my mind, I remember so clearly and vivdly the memories that gilded every long day here. I remember knocking on each of my neighbor’s doors in Scully Hall and welcoming them that first day, even though Princeton University was just beginning to welcome me. I remember having our first “writing time,” and seeing instead almost everyone communicating with the person sitting right in front of them through Facebook and provided landlines. I remember our newspaper meetings and the conversations we had with each other that we couldn’t really have with anyone back home. Nine days ago, 23 of us walked through the gates of this beautiful campus aspiring journalists, but I can tell that tomorrow we’ll walk out, more than anything else, inspired individuals.

Preparation and inspiration

Greg Mancini '01, a founding director, gives advice about the college application process during a small, intimate newspaper team meeting. (Photo Credit: A.J. Kazlouski (Colorado Springs, CO)).

By Gohar Chichian (Queens, NY)

“We want you to know that we believe in you,” Greg Mancini, an SJP director, said.

The students paid rapt attention as the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program progressed and counselors gave a series of workshops about preparing for college. Beginning with a speech on how we were a group of talented individuals, founding directors Greg Mancini '01 and Michael Koike '01 proceeded to give us advice on what colleges to apply to, what we needed to work on and most importantly, that with proper dedication, we could do it.

The counselors are truly inspiring through their wisdom and advice, and I am glad that they will be helping us as we begin to go through the college application process. They have already held one-on-one college admissions counseling sessions with each of us and have helped us realize our strengths and weaknesses. They have genuinely expressed their desire for us to pursue a great future, stray away from limiting ourselves and to stop at nothing. This, essentially, is what has made me more confident of myself as a writer and future college student. I know that, with their help, I will be motivated to do my best during the college application process and that they will be with every SJP student along the way.

A journalist's compromise

A student conducts an interview for her feature article. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Elizabeth Davis (Detroit, MI)

Writers, specifically journalists in this instance, need to have thick skin. It takes strength and courage to write a piece and then have it, for a lack of a better phrase, torn to shreds by an editor. When a writer creates something, that text becomes their offspring. All of the writer’s thoughts and feelings go into that one piece and as they look over it, they realize that it belongs to them – that it's their creation. When a journalist sees his or her finished work, it is as though he or she is the parent holding their newborn child. They feel that they must protect their "child" because he or she will inevitably be faced with harsh critics.

No one wants to see their child hurt or abused. However, a writer, much like a parent bringing their child to kindergarten for the first day, has to let go and watch their creation walk out into the world and change. It’s an indescribable feeling seeing what took so long to produce lose some of the qualities that made it so special.

At that moment, what some writers – including myself – fail to realize is that the piece of writing that is looked over is going through another phase of advancement and change. Much like people, writing needs to develop to communicate effectively. It may seem as though the editor is ripping, tearing and killing every last piece of the unique creature that was once the writer's work, but he or she is ultimately making it better.

In the final step of the editing process, the child is returned, like at the end of the kindergarten school day, and as the parent, writers hope for no injuries. Of course, there are always bruises, and writers need to cope with not being able to protect the "child" at all times – and that is where the difficulty lies. Writers must let go of their pride and concede to some of the changes that have been made.

Though it may be theirs, born of their minds, writers have to allow for criticism and enhancement of their work. Not all things have to be changed, but in order to produce something great and magnificent, much like a child, there needs to be room for improvement and compromise within a writer’s work.

It took some time, but I've realized that having my work changed doesn't mean that I'm a bad writer and maybe, just maybe, if I let someone edit my writing, it can become even better than it was when I first handed it to them.

Being a tourist in my own city

SJPers enter the New York Times building. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99)
By Laura Cheng (Brooklyn, NY)

Being a native New Yorker, I wasn’t that excited for our trip into the city. Sitting on the bus, I was surrounded by excited chatter and laughter. But as we began to edge our way into the all too familiar traffic of New York, I began to feel butterflies in my stomach. I had always lived in New York, but this area was completely unfamiliar to me. When we stopped in front of The New York Times building, I was just as excited as the other SJP students. The New York Times headquarters was both amazing and intimidating. We were given a tour and met with Greg Brock, a senior editor at the paper. Afterwards, we were whisked off to The Daily Beast, where one of the SJP counselors, Ben Crair, edits articles. It was just as amazing, and the environment was more mellow and enjoyable. Next, we went to CNN, where we met with a producer. We went on a tour and got a chance to view the behind-the-scenes production. In the late afternoon, we had a panel discussion at TIME magazine. Writers and editors from TIME , Sports Illustrated for Kids, and People magazine discussed their publications and answered our questions.

The final adventure of the day was a minor league baseball game: the Newark Bears v. Long Island Ducks. Although I’m not usually a sports fan, I really enjoyed the game. I even managed to follow the game with help from the directors and counselors. A few highlights of the game include: the adorable mascot Ruppert, a tour of the press box and the appearance of SJP students AJ and Brianda dancing on the JumboTron.

That day was one of the best days of my life. I’d learned to appreciate the city that I live in, while learning about several very different publications. SJP seems to draw out the best qualities from the people and the places that it touches.

If I wasn’t at SJP ...

SJP students and counselors brave last weekend's weather. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99)
By Maria Guardado (Milpitas, CA)

If I wasn’t at SJP, I would sleep until I felt like waking up. I would wake up and find my dog waiting enthusiastically to go out for his morning walk. I would have to clean my room and do my chores.

If I wasn’t at SJP, I would be at home with my crazy siblings. I would talk sports with my brother, make fun of my little sister and tolerate my other sister. I would eat my mom’s home cooked meals and watch the news in Spanish with my dad.

If I wasn’t at SJP, I would have no need for an umbrella during the summer. I would not have drenched sneakers and jeans. I would have sunny days and blue skies every day.

If I wasn’t at SJP, I would be completely lost about college. I would be scared of college applications and doubt myself every step of the way. I would not have a support system to encourage me to apply to top colleges and to keep pushing myself.

If I wasn’t at SJP, I would know nothing about journalism. I would not have been able to experience great workshops. I would not have met intriguing professors and established journalists. I would not have gone up to strangers and asked for interviews. I would not have written my first articles.  

If I wasn’t at SJP, I would not have met extraordinary people. I would have missed out on Bent Spoon and “DRAGO!!!”(one of the director's favorite lyrics). I would not be inspired by the selflessness of four directors and numerous counselors who gave up their time, sleep and lives for 10 days to change the lives of 23 aspiring journalists.

Our tour of The Daily Beast: It's not always about the name

Students listen to editor Bryan Curtis at The Daily Beast on Wednesday afternoon. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99)
By Joanne Yi (Los Angeles, CA)

Despite the excruciating pain in my feet from walking around in heels all day and the discomfort of wearing such formal attire, the trip to New York opened my eyes to the professional world of journalism. We took a charter bus around the city to The New York Times, The Daily Beast, CNN and Time Inc. -- all different forms of media -- and after the energy-draining tours, we were released into the streets for man-on-the-street interviews.

The Daily Beast definitely stood out from the rest. I found it to have the most relaxing environment, allowing any worker to create a niche for him or herself in its bright and colorful floor. Everyone was extremely friendly and laid back. Besides the relaxed atmosphere, The Daily Beast offers employees a unique journalism experience. What do I mean by that? Well, at bigger, more prominent publications, like The New York Times, climbing the ladder is tough for any writer. The Daily Beast, on the other hand, is one of many small, yet rapidly expanding news website businesses that provide more leeway. You can be an editor and still write for the website like one of our SJP counselors, Ben Crair.

I’ve always dreamed of working at one of the large newspaper publications, but the trip to New York showed me how it’s not always about the name. What’s more important is the experience. You can be in either of two situations: being a part of a big group and making a small difference or being a part of a small group and playing a large role in the company. I don’t know about you, but the second choice sounds much more appealing, especially when starting off in the journalism business. The big guys at the top can wait.

The SJP Family

Students listen to SJP alumni at a panel discussing their college admissions experiences. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99)

By Stacey Menjivar (Hyattsville, MD)

Listening to a panel discussion consisting of former SJPers yesterday was not only inspiring, but also daunting. These kids, most of them only a year older than us, are already headed to many prestigious colleges and universities. It’s hard to imagine that in only a year, we’ll be in their places.

But as frightening as applying to college may be, we all know now that we’re not in it alone. All the SJP counselors have told us time and again that they will be there every step of the way, helping us improve our essays, coaching us on how to pursue college interviews and encouraging us to study and raise our SAT scores.

One of the main topics that arose was this program’s impact on their college application experience. Katie Zavadski, SJP Class of 2008, and Harvard Class of 2013, told me that she wouldn’t even have applied to Harvard had it not been for the constant insistence of her SJP counselors. “Listen to them,” she said to me, “they know what they’re talking about.”

And this statement seems to prove itself over and over again. Former SJPers in the panel attend or will be attending some of the best colleges and universities in the country: Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Brown, Middlebury, Georgetown, Tufts and Columbia are just a few of the schools on the impressive resumes of some of these students.

So this fall we must work hard and focus on our ultimate goal: college. But that won’t be too hard because we’ve got a whole family helping us along the way. That family is SJP.

Fashion Journalism: Spotting trends from LA to NJ

After two seasons in Los Angeles, gladiator sandals have finally hit the streets of Princeton. (Photo Credit: Splendicity). 
By Jay Kim (Los Angeles, CA)

Los Angeles, California: torn jean shorts, revealing tank tops, layered chain necklaces, gladiator sandals, huge sunglasses and animal print bags. 
Princeton, New Jersey: clean cut t-shirts in solid colors, khaki capris, modest accessories, summer wedges, black sunglasses and tweed totes. 

The first time I set foot on the East Coast, I noticed a drastic change from the familiar hot streets of Los Angeles. Everyone in Princeton had their own flair. The whole atmosphere of the two places were polar opposites. While most of the women in Princeton emitted a Michelle Obama-esque aura, Los Angeles ladies were strutting their outrageously trendy and fashionable articles of clothing and accessories. 

Almost everyone in California keeps up with trends -- whether it be the Rihanna-like punk rocker style with studs on belts, bags, shoes, tank tops and everything else you can imagine, to the extremely romanticist feminine floral tulip skirts. Trends come and go in L.A., and most women even remotely interested in fashion would follow them. But New Jersey is different -- very different. Trends would be spotted on the Nassau Street here and there, from the floral skirts I mentioned before to the gladiator sandals that’s been around for two straight summer seasons now. But they seem to pick up immaculate and polished classical pieces over the more trendy things on sale in L.A. 

From stores like J. Crew, Ann Taylor to Banana Republic, everything screams “conservative, conservative, conservative.” Not one store I spotted in Palmer Square remotely resembled youth orientated trendy shops like Kitson Boutique or Betsey Johnson in L.A.. What’s even more starkly different about New Jersey is that every generation, whether you are 14, 23 or 60 likes to dress in classic pieces that never go out of style. As for L.A., each generation has its own style and trends making its rounds in shops and streets alike. Both styles and overall atmospheres are appreciated in different ways. 

The ladies of Princeton will forever be praised for having sophisticated taste, but criticized for their inability to take a risk. L.A. may make their own faux paus here and there while experimenting, but become celebratory once a new stylish look is born. I like to think that I’m a part of both worlds.

Sometimes I might feel like dressing up in the little black dress or that white Lacoste polo paired with some khaki shorts. Other days, I stay true to my L.A. Californian roots and take a risk.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Opinion Podcast: Helping us for the rest of our lives

Nahthaniel, right, raises his hands with the group after a budget meeting, to motivate the group to work hard to meet production deadlines. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99) 
By Nahtaniel Reel (Bronx, NY) 

Sports Podcast: Newark Bears v. Long Island Ducks

(Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99) 
By David Aguilar (Salinas, CA) 

In front of the room: teaching interviewing skills

Krystal Valentin '12 and Marion Smallwood (UPenn '12), alumni of SJP, conduct a mock interview for this summer's SJP students  (Photo credit: Brian Rokus '99).
By Marion Smallwood (Philadelphia, PA)        

Exactly two years ago, it was me sitting in the back of Friend 009, eating chips and talking about my feature story with anyone that would listen--it wasn’t Vanessa Flores-Maldonado from Los Angeles, California. It was me just beginning my Op-Ed piece the Friday before The Princeton Summer Journal was due to publish and not doubting in the least bit my ability to finish on time--now it’s Reem Abdou from Fort Lee, New Jersey. 

I see a little bit of myself in each of the students in SJP this summer. I see myself two years ago, wide-eyed yet scared, curious but at times afraid to ask, and wondering how on earth I was going to make it through what would turn out to be one of the best years of my life -- senior year of high school.  

I am walking back and forth from Friend and Scully, eating the same thing three times a day and jerking myself out of slumber in the midst of a guest speaker’s spiel on journalism. I am doing the same things I did during those ten amazing days during the summer of 2007, then a student in the program and now a counselor. 

Today my duties as a counselor were finally put into play. At 10:30 this morning, the students filed into Friend 109 for the How To Find A Journalism Internship workshop, including commentary from Natalie and Tasnim, Mike and Krystal, and myself. I led the discussion on college interviews, starting with a mock interview in which I did precisely the things one shouldn’t do while speaking with a potential employer. A lack of eye contact, interest, knowledge and manners were among the characteristics I very ungracefully acted out. 

The students, while clearly exhausted after returning from an SAT review session, were still very attentive. We held a discussion about the do’s and don’ts of interviewing and ended the workshop with a mock interview in which I acted as a good example of what should happen during the interview process, or so I thought. Apparently, I said ‘um’ too much and I didn’t answer a few of the questions thoroughly. I was at least happy to know that they learned something from me today, even if they made that clear by pointing out my mistakes. 

It was strange standing in front of the students leading part of a workshop and its even stranger sitting among them right now, surrounded by a bustling newsroom, writing a blog instead of an article and thinking of how exactly two years ago, it was me sitting in the back of Friend 009. 

--Smallwood is a counselor at the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program and rising sophomore at UPenn. 

Man-on-the-street Interviews: Michael Bloomberg

Student Nathaniel Reel from the Bronx, NY interviews a passerby on his opinion of Mayor Michael Bloomberg at Rockefeller Plaza. (Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99)

By Wing Cheung (New York, NY) 

On a scorching August afternoon, my group and I went out to interview people in Manhattan about their opinions on NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s decision to pursue a third term by participating in the upcoming mayoral election.

My first encounter was with a Long Island couple at Lincoln Center. Both the husband and wife approved of Bloomberg’s record, explaining that the incumbent’s work in the areas of education and the economy was exceptional. As a New Yorker, I agree with the couple’s opinion that Bloomberg’s work in reforming the post-9/11 economy has been effective, but I disagree about the mayor’s work in the area of education. While Bloomberg reduced class sizes, many schools (mine included) still lack resources and space.

My most memorable interview from this assignment is my encounter with a family of non-English speakers. The husband, seemingly lost in the foreign tongue in which I made my introduction, failed to convey to me what he wanted to say. I felt frustrated by the linguistic barrier because it confined me to the most basic form of communication: a firm handshake and eye contact.

While the time allowed for this assignment was limited, it had a long lasting effect on me: I am now fond of interviewing people, whether they are people in a prearranged interview or strangers on the street. Though prearranged interviews often feel less intimidating because I get to conduct research about my interviewee beforehand, interviews with people on the street has a unique element of surprise.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Newspaper Teams

Richard Just '01, a founding director of SJP and managing editor of The New Republic, teaching the "What is Journalism?" workshop. Photo Credit: Brian Rokus '99.

By David Aguilar (Salinas, CA)    

Saturday August 1, 2009 was my favorite day (so far) here at the Princeton University Summer Journalism Program (SJP). It was of course our first full day of LEARNING what journalism is. We had exciting workshops by Richard Just '01, Amanda Cormier (Columbia '12) and Natalie Shields (Queens '11).

Our day also included an array of guest speakers at meal times. What made my day enjoyable is that we split up into smaller groups (or in SJP terms, newspaper teams) to discuss our summer reading packet and also hang out together in the town and get ice cream at The Bent Spoon or Halo Pub. I was lucky to be put into the USA Today group because my fellow journalists are some of the most incredible people I’ve met. The first day of newspaper teams was really exciting because it was our first time in a smaller group where we were at liberty to discuss anything that was on our minds. We decided to go to Bent Spoon but left without eating ice cream, as we could not decide what we really wanted to do.

Our adventures took us to the Wodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, were a fountain attracts people to cool off during the hot summer days (but I have to say these days have been perfect). There we started into conversations of many social issues such as health care and taxes of all things, which seemed appropriate for the times we live in.

Our conversations also took us into where we wanted to attend college.The most important thing about newspaper teams is that we are introduced to new point of views and ideas that brew inside the intelligent minds of all these students that I’m lucky to be surrounded by here at Princeton.