Ohio Journalist

We Want YOU!

By Mallorie Sullivan | Photo by Eli Hiller

(December 1, 2015) — It has been a decade since E.W. Scripps School of Journalism alumna Lisa Merklin, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2009, walked onto the Ohio University campus as a freshman, ready to dive head first into the world of journalism. And, like many student journalists, she came prepared to get her toes wet right away.

After perusing newspaper stands and witnessing the tight-knit newsroom companionship during her initial visit to Athens, Merklin knew she wanted to spend her next four years at The Post, Ohio University’s independently run student newspaper.

“I absolutely knew I wanted to try working for The Post because I knew that experience would be valuable,” she said.

Upon arriving on campus, however, Merklin quickly realized the student newspaper did not aggressively market itself to students outside the realm of journalism.

“When I was a freshman, The Post was marketed to me through the journalism school, fellow students and print materials,” Merklin said.

Now, journalism freshmen are more or less bombarded during the first few weeks of every fall semester with invitations to join the university’s numerous media organizations. Although this has proven to be an effective way to reach new students, they, too, continue to do their homework before coming to campus.

“I found out about The New Political through my own research of on-campus media organizations before I even set foot on campus,” said freshman Spencer Cappelli about the exclusively online, student-run political publication that debuted on campus in 2010.

Cappelli said he used the university’s online list of organizations as a tool to narrow down the publications he was interested in joining. The list boasts more than 40 organizations and publications — some that have been around for years, such as The Post and WOUB, and others that have more recently found their way into campus conversation, such as Fangle Magazine, a general-interest, alternative magazine, and Beta Fish Magazine, a self-proclaimed “nerd” magazine with a focus on science, technology and gaming.

Although the list helps students get a general idea of what’s available, in the end the media outlet itself has a lot to do with the selection process. As many freshmen are encouraged to do, Cappelli approached his top prospects during the first week of school at the university’s involvement fair. He said the publication’s accessibility and transparency at the fair were key factors in his decision to join.

“I got on an email list and sent in an application right away,” said Cappelli, who is now the co-campus section editor. “I plan on working for [The New Political] as long as it continues to be enlightening and fulfilling for me as a writer, student and journalist.”

Like Cappelli and Merklin, freshman Lucas Hakes-Rodriguez also knew he wanted to write for a publication before he got to campus. He was quickly won over by word-of-mouth advertising for Speakeasy, one of Ohio University’s studentproduced online magazines. “Speakeasy marketed itself as (an) easygoing, yet motivated group of people,” Hakes-Rodriguez said. “It seemed like a cool site to write for with a lot of creative freedoms available.…I checked their website, viewed their articles and became hooked. I had to join.”

Student media are not limited to print and online publications, but also include radio, TV, and public relations and visual communication, all of which help students find their footing and, later on, apply their skills at internships and jobs.

Merklin, now a designer at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., credits her reporting and design experience at The Post with helping her get where she is today.

“Working for an actual newspaper with a real product, you quickly learn what not to do and how to make everything better,” she said. “I absolutely believe the experience I gained working for The Post helped me improve as a designer, artist and visual journalist.”

However, not all organizations stay alive. Some have been “put to bed” over the years.

Between 1969 and 1970, National Geographic Contributing Editor Rudy Maxa (BSJ ’71) was the editor of the Hocking River Valley Silt, a student-run satirical magazine.

“I made a lot of money with it,” Maxa said of the magazine, which was unaffiliated with the university. “It helped me pay some of my way through college.”

Maxa said he sold all the ads for Silt, which was published every couple months and distributed for a quarter on the streets by people wearing white gloves. Thus the publication’s catchphrase: “Untouched by Human Hands.”

After he became editor of The Post his senior year of college, Maxa said Silt stopped publication because “there was nobody to take it over.”

Another independent student magazine, Insideout, joined Silt in the media graveyard. According to Jeff Howe (BSJ ’94), a contributing editor at Wired who coined the phrase “crowdsourcing,” the magazine was the brainchild of Anderson Jones II, an African-American student who identified as gay.

Jones, who went on to work for a variety of media such as E! and USA Today before his death in 2007, began the magazine during a time when LGBT and race issues at the university were “under wraps,” and “people weren’t covering urban lifestyle,” Howe said. The content was rife with politics, pop culture and “the kind of stuff that kids who are punk-rock and edgy write when they’re 21,” he said.

Because the journalism school didn’t support the magazine, Howe said the staff sold ads, created and distributed the publication itself.

“We distributed [Insideout] four times a year to campuses, indie-rock bars and coffee shops around Ohio in the managing editor’s truck,” he said.

From 1991 to 1993, Insideout was named best student magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists, beating out the school’s magazine, Southeast Ohio. Howe, now an assistant professor at the Northeastern University School of Journalism, said this, as well as the collaborative spirit of the publication, helped him launch his career following graduation.

A freelance writer when he moved to New York, Howe got jobs based on graphic design experience from Insideout, which phased out in 1994, he said, adding that his knowledge of “every aspect” of the publication process gave him an advantage in the working world.

“When editors see kids from the Midwest that have busted ass and taken initiative…they would be crazy not to hire you,” he said. “You get snatched up.”

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