Student Journalism Institute Opens With New Platforms in Mind

A reporter used to need only a notepad, curiosity and a healthy dose of skepticism. In 2017, a journalist’s foundation also includes a Twitter handle and the ability to tell stories in nontraditional ways.

In its 14th year, The New York Times Student Journalism Institute prepares talented young journalists to produce stories across print, digital, mobile and social platforms.

The two-week program, operated in collaboration with the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, brings together 26 collegiate members of the National Association of Black Journalists or the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and students from historically black colleges and universities. Those demographics are statistically underrepresented in the nation’s newsrooms. The Institute is designed to foster diverse talent and train participants in different disciplines to help them step into the expanding roles that shape journalism today.

As social media editor, Sebastian Vega brings a passion for the opportunities presented by the digital sphere.

“This year we have a lot more tools than we had during past Institutes,” said Mr. Vega, 21, a rising senior at the University of Southern California. “I’m hoping to work with reporters here to distribute their content in ways that we haven’t in the past.”

John Eligon, a New York Times reporter, talks to students from the 2017 New York Times Student Journalism Institute. Adriana Loureiro Fernández/NYT Institute

His duties include encouraging reporters to engage with platforms the Institute has not used before such as Facebook Live, Snapchat and Instagram Stories.

Lindsay Carbonell, a digital editor, said the program underscores the importance of diversity in digital news.

“One of the most exciting things that’s happening in journalism is the inclusion of people from not just different racial backgrounds but from different skill sets,” said Ms. Carbonell, 22, a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “A web designer thinks very differently about storytelling than a reporter does, but both have a perspective to contribute that helps a reader understand a story in different ways.”

An increased emphasis on video journalism brings in another perspective. Ashley Omoma, a video journalist, said the Institute was an eye-opening experience.

Ayanna Alexander, a copy editor and other students at the Institute watched “Page One: Inside The New York Times” on May 21. Gabriella Angotti-Jones/NYT Institute

“This is the first time I’ve felt like an actual reporter or journalist and not just someone who does video,” said Ms. Omoma, 19, a rising senior at Lehigh University. “It’s so cool that I’m transforming the facts into a visual medium.”

The students produce content for a website and a print issue under the guidance of veteran Times reporters and editors. They also learn from seminars led by such people as Matt Apuzzo, an investigative reporter in the Washington bureau; David Gonzalez, co-editor of The Lens Blog; and Kinsey Wilson, The New York Times Company’s vice president for product and technology and the newsroom’s director of digital innovation.

The Institute’s director, Richard G. Jones, said helping students think differently about storytelling is a key part of the program’s mission.

“We want these great students to leave our program with their traditional journalistic muscles strengthened, and also with a renewed sense of the vast possibilities that exist for 21st-century journalists,” said Mr. Jones, who is also an associate editor at The Times.

From left: Randal C. Archibold, assigning editor at the Institute, and Michael Noble Jr., a student photographer, share an introduction, while Ángel Franco, former New York Times photographer and photo editor at the Institute, and Maria Alejandra Cardona, an Institute photographer, hang out during a welcome cocktail reception at the 2017 New York Times Student Journalism Institute. Gabriella Angotti-Jones/NYT Institute

Melissa Gomez, a reporter, shares that optimism, even if some others do not.

“In high school, when I knew I wanted to be a journalist, I had one teacher ask me ‘Are you sure? You know journalism is dying.’” Her retort, immortalized in her Twitter bio, has become an Institute mantra: “Journalism ain’t dead. Chill.”

“I started saying it because I believe it,” said Ms. Gomez, 21, a rising senior at the University of Florida. “If you are saying that journalism is dead, that journalism is dying, you don’t really understand what it is. At the heart of journalism is storytelling, and it can take all shapes and forms.”