Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Introducing the Class of 2020: Zack Demars

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: Zack Demars

School: University of Oregon

Location: Eugene, OR

Student media: Daily Emerald

Journalism hero: Steven Rich at The Washington Post

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

Demars: I’ve learned the core elements of how to serve a community with good journalism: by developing a beat, hitting deadlines, and telling stories that matter. I spent all last year reporting on tuition increases at our university, and I learned how to dive deep into a topic while making it accessible to readers. As an editor this year, I’ve also learned how to collaborate and lead with a group of my talented peers.

What’s been your best moment in journalism?

Demars: I spent two months investigating the resume of a newly appointed university official. My investigation revealed that she’d made unverifiable claims on her resume, and the story I wrote was one of the most-read of the season. That story also began a new process at our paper, wherein we explain at the bottom of the story how and why we do contentious stories like this one to build trust with our readers.

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

Demars: I went to a small town in the south of Russia last winter to report on Cold War pen-pal programs. The full story was born out of a much smaller story here in Oregon that a team of colleagues and I had discovered and decided to pursue. To make a long story very short, I can’t include a link here because the reporting has been wrapped into a forthcoming nonfiction book about the whole affair.

What do you want to accomplish in your journalism career?

Demars: My personal mission is to tell meaningful stories to make the world a more empathetic place. I think with a bit more empathy, the world could be a much kinder place with more efficient and fair societal structures, and I can’t think of a better way to develop that empathy than with my storytelling skills.

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

Demars: Probably Steven Rich at The Washington Post. I’m absolutely fascinated by the databases he and his team have built, as well as the diversity in beats that he’s touched on with his work. I’m also really excited about the prospect of a work-life balance, which he seems to have if his Twitter persona is evidence.

What do you want potential employers to know about you?

Demars: I learn quickly, write accurately, hit deadlines and care deeply about the community I serve!

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

Demars: I’m usually running, watercolor painting or attempting to cook something new (seeking: vegetarian recipes)! Lately I’ve also fallen victim to many of the COVID-19 hobbies: baking, caring for houseplants and staring pensively out the window.

To support journalism students, contribute here to scholarships.


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