Jackie DelPilar (BS/JEM ’14) joined 28 other students from across the country at the News21 fellowship program at Arizona State University this past summer. DelPilar’s participation in the News21 program was made possible by a generous gift from CCI Board of Visitors (BOV) member John T. Williams (BS/JEM ‘71) and his wife Patty Williams (SIS endorsement ‘86) of Kingsport, Tenn.
According to the News21 website, “the national News21 Initiative is part of an effort on the part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York to change the way journalism is taught in the U.S. and train a new generation of journalists capable of reshaping the news industry.”
“The Cronkite School serves as the national headquarters for the initiative, which includes top journalism students from across the country.” DelPilar’s work began in January as she and the other student participants researched their topic and developed story ideas to pitch during their group video conferencing meetings. DelPilar had two stories selected for further exploration.
The students engaged in a full-fledged editorial process while working within real budgets. As DelPilar planned her travel to conduct interviews and shoot video, she had to research flight and hotel costs to make sure she could get the story and stay on budget.
Throughout the process, the students developed a variety of skills in a unique professional environment including: pitching stories, checking stories for details and accuracy, evaluating the evergreen nature of a story along with the likelihood that it was scalable to a national, multi-faceted story.
“I had to learn the skill required to develop a story beyond the minute and a half broadcast news stories I did at UT and expand those into 3,000 word stories for the News21 format,” said DelPilar. “The broadcast students were challenged to think in more detail, broader scope and the evergreen qualities of the story. The print journalism students were challenged to be more aggressive in pitching their stories and had to learn how to make their stories more compelling when told using other media such as video.”
Delpilar continued by saying, “I was very proud of the skills I obtained during my UT education. I felt my skills and our curriculum were certainly competitive with the other students in the program, even comparing favorably with the graduate students who participated.”
DelPilar, who is back in the Nashville area for now as she goes on interviews and explores broadcast news positions across the country, is very grateful to John and Patty Williams for investing in her future. “My message to Mr. and Mrs. Williams is an enthusiastic and huge ‘Thank You’!” exclaimed DelPilar. “The experience and the skills I developed as a result of News21 give me an incredible advantage as I look for my first job.”
Development Director Patrick Powell invited the Williams for a campus visit in August 2013. “We reconnected with UT and the College during that visit,” said Williams. “It was the first day of fall classes and Patty and I found it invigorating to be around all the positive energy and hope or the future. We knew we wanted to provide support in a real and meaningful way. Supplying support for the New21 Fellowship fit with my background in broadcast journalism and with Patty’s background as an educator.”
John Williams had the opportunity to meet Jackie DelPilar at the Spring BOV meeting. “Since then, Jackie has kept us informed of her experiences and progress. It means a lot to us to be in position to endorse this learning format. I firmly believe a communications degree is one of the most useful degrees a student can obtain today. As a business person working in an environment with many scientists, I have observed that often the most successful leaders are the ones that are good communicators especially in environments that combine people from different fields.”
As icing on the cake with respect to DelPilar’s News21 experience, NBC Nightly News Anchor Brian Williams used research/findings from one of DelPilar’s stories in a Sept. 22 story about armed teachers (see http://www.nbcnews.com/news/investigations/f-firearm-more-teachers-authorized-carry-weapons-classroom-n208946).