Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Introducing the Class of 2020: Molly Stellino with advice from The Atlantic’s Ed Yong

The National Press Club Journalism Institute is spotlighting the next generation of journalists, students who graduated from college or Master’s programs this spring into a challenging job market. We hope they’ll meet future bosses and colleagues here, who will reach out and support them in building journalism’s future together. 

Name: Molly Stellino

School: Arizona State University 

Location: Tempe, AZ

Student media: The State Press, Tempe Late Night

Journalism hero: Ed Yong  

What have you learned from your involvement with student media on your campus?

Stellino: As an editor and reporter for the student paper, I’ve learned to line edit, structure magazine stories, conduct complex investigations and coordinate projects. But I’ve also learned not to be afraid to take risks, be confident in my abilities and diligent and relentless with my reporting, to collaborate with my peers and trust my gut.

What have you learned from your internship experience(s)?

Stellino: My internship experiences pushed my limits. I learned to process massive amounts of information into lean, intelligible articles, refine my interviewing skills, access and analyze data and use logic to direct my reporting process. Other notable learning experiences include translation, public records requests and research on media literacy and the spread of misinformation.

What’s been your best moment in journalism?

Stellino: After publishing Designed to Fail, an investigation into how the curriculum of ASU’s design school disproportionately challenges low-income students, the school’s students printed out copies of the story and pinned them to the walls of the building. They felt heard.

What’s the wackiest story you’ve worked on? 

Stellino: “Live más: Overnight at the Taco Bell on Apache” 

One of my colleagues spent the night at the cultural hub of ASU. (I edited the story and provided emotional support.)

What do you want to accomplish in your journalism career?

Stellino: I want to find and tell untold stories that matter and help the public navigate information to better their lives. I want to continue to better myself as a journalist by learning more effective ways to gather data, connect with people and convey stories. Topics of interest are numerous but include the country’s broken immigration system, language education and the socio-economic implications of climate change.

If you could meet any journalist and ask for her/his advice, who would it be and why?

Stellino: If I could meet any journalist and ask their advice, I would choose Ed Yong because he exemplifies the importance of good reporting during turbulent times and masterfully educated the public about the big-picture implications of the virus. His work is insightful, incisive and integral to our society.

Ed Yong responds: Hi Molly. Hi everyone. 

Above all else, work to the highest possible standard, always: Protect your work and your work will protect you. ~ Be professional: File your copy on time, to word count. ~ Park downhill at the end of the day, leaving a sentence or paragraph or piece unfinished so you don’t wake to an empty screen. ~ Cherish good editors: Don’t be precious about your words, and find the people who make your words better. ~ Actively deconstruct the work of good journalists in an attempt to decipher and reverse-engineer what makes their writing sing. ~ Pay attention to structure, and learn how to report well; remember that most writing problems are actually structuring problems, and most structuring problems are actually reporting problems. ~ Embrace nuance, and convey uncertainty. Ignore easy answers in search for deeper truths, but don’t fall prey to cheap contrarianism. ~ Recognize that you will often know relatively little about what you’re writing about, so be humble, and learn interview techniques that will delineate, probe, and stretch the limits of your own knowledge. ~ Be accurate and nuanced, but know when to let a piece go and move on to the next thing. ~ Note that it is better to be right than to be first, but it’s nice to be both. ~ Remember that you’re not writing to impress your sources or other journalists; you’re writing to help your readers make sense of the world. Take that responsibility seriously; view journalism as a profession and a craft whose standards you must uphold. ~ Prize thoughtfulness over salaciousness, depth over volume, light over heat. When you make mistakes, correct them quickly and transparently. ~ Remember that women exist, that minorities exist, that disabled and queer and trans people exist; interview them, tell their stories, and don’t do what the majority of journalists do which is to disproportionately give voice to loud white men. ~ Judge your peers for the quality of their work, rather than judging their work based on who they are; aim to be judged according to the same standard. ~ Give your loyalty to people and not to institutions; the former probably care about you and the latter probably do not. ~ Be extremely mindful about how you use social media, reaping in all its benefits as a reporting tool while skirting around its pitfalls as an emotional void. ~ Be cautious about all the advice you receive, including this, recognizing that everyone is speaking to you from some combination of luck and privilege. ~ Recognize your own luck and privilege, and work to uplift others around you. ~ Accrue social capital so you can spend it on people. ~ Be bold. Be fearless. Be kind. Be kind to yourself. ~

Good luck. (Download this advice as poster or sized for Facebook or Twitter.)

What do you want potential employers to know about you?

Stellino: I am hardworking, capable and eager to learn. My experience is diverse and robust. I’ve worked on thorough investigations, features and breaking news. Throw anything at me. I also speak three languages, can cook a mean fajita and sometimes say funny things.

When you aren’t practicing journalism, how do you spend your time?

Stellino: Comedy. Watching, reading or studying comedy. I love to cook, exercise, read about linguistics or any narrative nonfiction. I also really enjoy spending time with my friends.

If you’re a recent graduate who studied journalism, or know one, we’re accepting information here for members of the Class of 2020 to feature in the future. If you’re a supporter, you can contribute here to scholarships for journalism students.

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