Media School Ambassadors, freshman Ernie Pyle Scholars visit Chicago media outlets

The Media School Report • Feb. 19, 2018

Junior and senior Media School Ambassadors and the freshman class of Ernie Pyle Scholars traveled to Chicago to network with alumni and visit various media outlets. 

The trip

By Jamie Zega

Even though I grew up near Chicago, I always seem to forget how cold it is in early February. 

About 40 Media School students were struck by the harsh cold when we stepped off the five-hour bus ride from somewhat chilly Bloomington into freezing Chicago. Luckily, all of our activities were indoors, including my immediate trip to Portillo’s to get my fix of good Chicago food. 

That evening, the freshmen of the Ernie Pyle Scholars program parted with the junior and senior ambassadors to The Media School. The former were lucky enough to dine at Gino’s East as a class, while the older students had the opportunity to network with alumni who now work in the Chicagoland area. (Don’t worry, our food was pretty good, too.)

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The next day started bright and early with trips to the Associated Press, Optimus, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and WGN-TV. Students with a range of specializations in The Media School were able to learn about the professional field of their choice, whether it be print journalism, broadcast journalism, public relations or film.

After a break for lunch, students again departed for tours of media outlets, this time the Chicago Sun-Times, the Big Ten Network, Res Publica and the Chicago Tribune.

Again, we were able to see professionals who were once upon a time students in our shoes in Bloomington now take on the professional world in some of the leading media agencies in Chicago.

This was my third and final Chicago trip with The Media School, and it was just as enjoyable the third as it was my first and second — filled with good people, good food and good media.

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Alumni reception

By Lydia Riley

Delicious food, great conversations and new connections all made my night at the Media School Ambassadors reception dinner worthwhile. 

Kale Wilk, BAJ’16 (left to right), Stephanie Stremplewski, BAJ’16, senior Jamie Zega, Tanner Ollo, BAJ’13, at The Media School alumni reception in Chicago. (Courtesy photo)

On our first night, we attended a reception dinner at Maggiano’s to connect with IU alumni who currently work at media companies in and around Chicago. The establishment was great, and they served excellent Italian food. There was also a wide selection of desserts, which I greatly appreciated. Dean James Shanahan also attended the event and gave a lovely talk about the future of The Media School. 

I felt a little bit awkward, at first, walking up to complete strangers and starting a conversation with them. I tried to remember my elevator speech, confidently introduce myself and discuss my career goals. However, I was still feeling really nervous.

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Therefore, a few of the other ambassadors and I decided to team up and approach people together. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is shy or nervous about networking. Approaching other professionals as a group takes a lot of the pressure off one single person. If one person is struggling with the conversation, one of the other people can jump in and move the discussion along.

Another thing that made my experience easier was that we had name tags that said “Ask me about…” on them. I wrote the career field that I am looking to enter after I graduate on my name tag, and this made it obvious to the alumni what I am studying and my career goals. This made the conversations flow more easily, because I didn’t have to explain myself as much.

It was great to talk with the IU media alumni in Chicago. I met a few really interesting people. I enjoyed hearing about their experiences and their journeys from college to where they are now. The alumni also gave me great advice, which I appreciated. They were once in my shoes, and they seemed eager to see me succeed in the real world.

Overall, this night was productive and successful. I also learned about some new opportunities and internship positions that I may apply for soon. The connections that I made could possibly open doors to numerous opportunities in the future.

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Associated Press

By Mackenzie Young

If you’re ever in Chicago and have the chance to visit the Associated Press, it’ll be a memory bound to last a lifetime. Once you walk into the 440 building on LaSalle Avenue, you’re overwhelmed with the beauty of its interior: marble walls, high ceilings and an atmosphere that makes you say, “It would be a dream to work here.” 

Shawn Chen, BAJ’99, talks with Media School students at the Associated Press offices in Chicago. (Peter Talbot | The Media School)

The Associated Press, located inside the building, took students on an interesting twist of the world of journalism. The online wire system brought a focus to the “metrics” of online journalism. These include statistics such as views, how long a viewer stayed on a particular article and where the viewer went after that article. 

Our visit in particular was interesting to me because no matter what part of the industry students were going into, the advice given to us could be used in all mediums of journalism. For example, one major piece of advice given was where to place content, such as videos and pictures, between the writing and spacing of the article.

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As a print student, this helps because most of this particular industry is starting to place its content on the internet to reach more viewers. As a broadcast student, this was useful for the same reason. Although most of our content is placed on television or throughout social media, the content also typically includes an online story for the broadcaster’s website. Here, the advice is helpful in trying to keep our audience interested in the content.

The talk became a little more personal when our guide brought in four of their shared-newsroom journalists — the “rookies,” new employees who have been out of college for about three or four years. Here, students were able to ask questions and get a “rookie’s” insight on how it was to go from college life to working in a major city, such as Chicago.

Whether an Ernie Pyle Scholar or a Media School Ambassador, this trip was insightful as growing members in the media industry. The information from our guide, his journalists and the location and architecture of the building gave students something to look forward to, and something to miss, when coming back to Bloomington.

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By Gillian Paxton

What does it take to make it in the world of broadcast journalism? On Feb. 2, a group of Ernie Pyle Scholars and Media School Ambassadors traveled to WGN-TV, a Chicago-based TV station, to find out.

WGN morning show hosts Larry Potash, Robin Baumgarten and Paul Konrad met with Media School students during their trip to Chicago.

There, we were introduced to the history of the station. We toured studios, offices and a control room and even watched a taping of a Neil Diamond cover band called Super Diamond.

We met a variety of employees at WGN, both on-camera and off. Demetrius Ivory, a weather anchor, talked about his path to the station. He started in a small town with one TV station and slowly worked up into larger stations from there. He said he thought he learned a lot from starting small, as he was able to learn a variety of skills in these lower-stress environments.

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“I got to learn to report, I did sports, I did football, I did play-by-play,” he said, “I even did a drag-racing thing.”

He encouraged us to start small in broadcast journalism and learn all we can so that when we move into larger workspaces, the transition is easier.

We also met Meghan Dwyer, BAJ’05, a reporter for WGN who shared with us her love for different Bloomington pizza restaurants. She also told us to reach out to people in the industry for advice and critique if we need it.

“You would be surprised at how many people are approachable,” she said. “Everybody’s human, even if they’re on TV.”

Larry Potash, a WGN anchor, gave advice on how to make competitive resumes, including talking about the value of coaching and staying well-read about the world of journalism.

“If you haven’t read a book about journalism, what does that say about your passion for journalism?” he said.

He also stressed the importance of generating your own story ideas, instead of waiting for assignments.

We learned the importance of writing skills even in broadcast journalism, as well as the increasing importance of computer skills, such as coding, in the industry.

As we left, the studio gave us station T-shirts. In the room where we retrieved our jackets and bundled up to go out into the frigid cold day, a sign was mounted to the wall.

It read, “You can catch it all on WGN.”

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Chicago Symphony Orchestra

By Kaitlyn Beck 

Students visited the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during their trip to Chicago. (Holly Hardin | The Media School)

Media and communications-related jobs are integrated into nearly every organization and business. I’m always surprised by the wide variety of communications-related jobs in diverse businesses and companies.

On Feb. 2, the Media School Ambassadors and Ernie Pyle Scholars had the opportunity to tour and meet with media professionals from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Without the exploration and experiences provided by The Media School, I wouldn’t have even considered employers such as the Orchestra as a prospective career opportunity.

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The marketing supervisor led a tour and showed us around many rooms and departments. The tour was followed with a Q&A portion, giving students the opportunity to ask questions and connect with different employees. The social media manager and marketing manager joined our event and provided us with inside information. Because the Orchestra has such a loyal following and notable reputation, it targets and reaches its audiences differently from other companies with less recognition. In order to attract new ticket buyers, the social media manager uses many social media platforms, including Twitter and Facebook, to reach new potential audiences and younger generations.

Traditional marketing techniques like direct mail marketing are used to reach loyal, returning buyers. Different techniques are used to cater to different audiences, something that requires a refined tone and specific voice. The experience really opened my eyes to the possibilities of media and communications. Overall, the experience was informative and helpful not only for networking but also for considering and exploring new positions and opportunities in different industries and nonprofits.

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By Noni Ford

Going into Optimus was already quite an experience for all of us even in the waiting room, where we all couldn’t stop looking around and admiring all the decor. There was some exposed brick, light hardwood floors and tons of natural light. But above all that, there was a definite atmosphere that we couldn’t quite put into just a single word. It just felt like a place people seemed to enjoy being in. 

Students meet with Brian Hrastar, BA’96, the executive producer/managing director at Optimus. (Lauren Walther | The Media School)

As we went on a tour through three levels, we found that this atmosphere seemed to permeate the entire building, and it was reflected in the people. They had lots of work to do and lots of assignments, but they genuinely enjoyed their jobs, and they relished the collaboration involved in advertising. Each office had its own personal touch to it, be that superhero figurines, movie posters or a dog (only in one case), and every single person working in an office seemed to be comfortable and excited about his or her work. Be it Ruben talking about the editing of a Maytag ad, Glenn walking us through his special effects reel or Marina describing how to get the perfect sound for certain things, everyone talked about all the detail that went into their work with so much passion.

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The advertising field is competitive, especially as it’s had to adapt in recent times to really get the attention of viewers. In the first leg of our tour we talked with Brian Hrastar, BA’96, about how ad spots are now being shown on social media and how to make content that is shorter than it used to be. We talked about how some social media ad spots are only six seconds, and how you have to work with your footage and then cut it down to tell a quick narrative people will understand in that amount of time.

As someone who has mostly worked with feature or short film creation in my studies, many of the things I learned that day were new to me, being unique to the advertising field. So many elements go into making an ad that is seamless. During the process of crafting an ad you also receive so much input and so many opinions from the clients to the agency, and you have to work with all of them to make your project meet their standards. Although this process seems and likely is stressful, the team at Optimus tackled everything with a step-by-step process that delivers content that everyone can perfect and be proud of.

The key lesson I learned in my visit is that your own unique style doesn’t need to be completely tamped down because you’re making an advertisement. There are several editors at the company who are chosen for projects based on their style, and the client or agency has looked at their past work and appreciates their vision. It’s good to know that creativity doesn’t hinder, but in fact becomes part your work and part of how you market yourself in the advertising world. Visiting Optimus definitely gave me an appreciation for advertising and changed the way I view it.

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Chicago Tribune

By Jacob deCastro

Scattered across the desks of many staffers at the Chicago Tribune is history. Front pages from yesterday, last month and other moments in time gave me a glimpse into the importance that the Tribune plays in Chicago and the country. 

George Papajohn, BA’82, editor of investigations and consumer watch at the Chicago Tribune, shows students the First Amendment inscribed in the wall at the Chicago Tribune. (Peter Talbot | The Media School)

From the moment we walked into Tribune Tower, we were surrounded by inscribed quotes attesting to the power of the First Amendment and the role that the press plays in keeping our institutions in check. 

“I want the Tribune to continue to be after I am gone as it has been under my directions and be an advocate of political and moral progress and in all things to follow the line of common sense.” — Joseph Medill

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From there, our group went up the elevator and into the newsroom. Right off the elevator, the First Amendment was inscribed in the limestone. However, there was an error, according to George Papajohn, BA’82, editor of investigations.

“This is why it’s important to have copy editors. You can see they missed a letter here and had to redo it,” he said.

From the lobby of the fourth floor, we walked through the newsroom before being able to sit in on their afternoon planning meeting.

Being able to sit in on this meeting gave me insight into how a large newspaper plans its content — and the similarities to my experience at the Indiana Daily Student largely outnumbered the differences, despite the large difference in scale.

The editors there are in the same boat we are in when it comes to attracting readers to your website, balancing print and web and managing different social platforms. The commonalities between us both are uncanny.

While the Tribune is moving out of Tribune Tower by the end of May, the only change will be the building — not the important work it does for the Chicago area and beyond.

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Res Publica

By Sarah Addison 

Media School students visited ResPublica in Chicago. (Aubrey Gibson | The Media School)

If you’ve ever attended a Blackhawks game or Lollapalooza, you might be part of the audience Res Publica, a full-service strategic communications firm in Chicago, is targeting in its work. 

Several Media School Ambassadors spoke with Intern Coordinator Kevin Owens and Senior Account Executive Jennifer Scully about their experiences at Res Publica. Owens and Scully discussed non-negotiables when selecting the perfect job and characteristics they look for in entry-level employees.

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Owens urged students to clean up their social media presence before applying for positions. He recounted several instances when students were dropped from the hiring process due to content on Instagram or Facebook.

Scully encouraged students to find jobs at agencies that “believed in their clients” and “cultivated employees that cared for each other.”

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