Opinion: ‘Ideas got bigger as the room itself got smaller. All it took was teamwork’

Siemens in the newsroom. (Courtesy of Jordyn Siemens)

The CU Independent is participating in the national Save Student Newsrooms campaign on Wednesday, April 25. As part of the campaign we are sharing testimonials from former CU Independent writers on how the CUI prepared them for the world of professional journalism. Today, Jordyn Siemens weighs in:

Growing up, adults always said, fingers wagging, to play well with others. I listened to that advice in my elementary classrooms, but it didn’t truly sink in until I set foot in a university newsroom.

That newsroom, like Kindergarten, is a place to make friends, ask a million questions and discover the tools at your disposal to write, create and solve problems. Kids take their first spelling tests of the year while freshman reporters post their first columns, sizing up their skills against the class.

The difference is, the reporter will keep coming back by choice, hungry for leads and opportunities before the Real World holds their feet to the fire. Our parents never had to sign us up or drop us off at late-night meetings. We went because we grew to love working as a team toward a product — an award-winning one in the CU Independent’s case.

Speaking of awards, notice this: Pulitzer Prizes are often awarded to staffs at-large and investigative teams over lone reporters. Photos shared by the New York Times and Washington Post of their award-winners feature dozens of faces huddled over copy, combing it for errors, for holes, for one more critical edit. There is no reporter, photographer or copy editor that can achieve the highest level of journalistic excellence alone. In college, no student, regardless of talent, can achieve their best work alone. This, in my mind, is what student media is all about.

After a year of producing local news, I can confirm the industry changes professors and mentors alike warned about in school. Budgets are tight and cuts are always looming. Job descriptions only cover half of a position’s true responsibilities, and yes, you will often ask for help and offer it to others. This is the constant reality of a working newsroom, and there is absolutely no place on campus that trains young reporters for this reality better than student media organizations.

The CU Independent’s second-floor Armory newsroom is a place where students double their workload without the incentive of academic credit. During my time on staff, ideas got bigger as the room itself got smaller, and threats to funding and support were met with a growing staff, more columns, new podcasts, multimedia, cross-campus collaborations, an ancillary publication and comprehensive David-and-Goliath investigations into campus administration. All it took was teamwork.

Student media is a space for those willing to go the extra mile and initiate real journalism in the ever-more-controlled university space. Without it, these future reporters, producers and photojournalists would never rise from the masses. Students learn the basics of reporting in the classroom, but rarely get the opportunity to practice real-world collaboration until they reach their capstone courses. At CU Boulder, that opportunity is only available for all students in the homes of student media: the CU Independent newsroom, the Buff Sports Live studio and the record-lined walls of Radio 1190.

Jordyn Siemens is a former CU Independent Editor in Chief and CU class of ’17 journalism graduate. She is now a news producer for KTVZ News Channel 21 in Bend, Oregon. Follow her on twitter at @JordynKTVZ.

CU Independent

The CU Independent, or CUI for short, is the student news outlet for the University of Colorado at Boulder. We cover news, sports, politics, opinion, arts and entertainment and more. Our mission is to provide news and commentary that's for students and by students — about the things we care about.

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