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, Elizabeth Hernandez weighs in:
To land a solid internship or job in journalism, you have to be able to show what you can do.
Everybody has to start somewhere, and, for many, that means being introduced to the beautiful chaos of the journalism industry in some bygone college classroom that soon acts as a second home.
I’m one of the lucky, nutty few who have always known what I wanted to do, so before I came to the CU Independent, I had a little journalism experience writing for my high school and local newspaper.
I used my time at the CUI to experiment.
I wrote editorials. I penned an extremely on-brand column I so innovatively named “I Hate Everything.” I wrote about politics and birth control and trying not to get scurvy amid college eating habits.
In the way that people categorize college as a time for “finding yourself,” the content under my bylines went through many phases searching for what felt right: rebellious, angry, sad, embarrassing, trying too hard, not trying hard enough.
I remember the freedom in knowing I had a whole campus worth of news and ideas to sort through. Now as a reporter at The Denver Post, I see the similarities in covering a college campus and a city like Denver. I appreciate having had the microcosm of a population, finances, government, disagreements, outrage and quirky slices of life to learn from.
I also remember how little it seemed the University of Colorado valued its independent student press. I remember having professors in my own journalism classes poking fun at our small team. I remember feeling like we had very few resources or encouragement from mentors who I so desperately wanted to guide us so we could grow, learn and become better.
I’m thankful for the CU Independent for giving me a platform to tell all the stories my young brain could dream up. I hope CU and all universities home to a student press understand the value of investing in their students’ right to investigate, inform and entertain through journalism.
While it may seem obnoxious for a university administration to have a young person hounding for documents and other probing inquiries, that same student is simply in training to hound their next publication’s police chief, city council, state senator and so on up the ladder of folks who need to be held accountable for their actions.
A free press is vital to a healthy democracy, and the people behind that free press all need to start somewhere. Let’s make that starting point a launching pad to the next best thing by investing time, mentorship and resources into student newsrooms.
Elizabeth Hernandez is a breaking news reporter at the Denver Post, former higher education reporter at the Daily Camera, and class of ’15 CU journalism school graduate. Follow her on twitter at @ehernandez.