Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Introducing the Class of 2020: Lou Buhl, with a surprise graduation gift

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

Name: Lou (Lauren) Buhl

School: Wayne State University 

Location: Detroit, Michigan

Best Moment: Receiving the Armand and Eleanor Gerbert Scholarship

Wackiest Story: ”Jingle Bingo Balls

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

Buhl: I’ve learned that persistence and a good attitude goes a long way! I’ve worked with the student newspaper at WSU, The South End, and I’ve learned that there’s no reason to be scared or shy about interviewing. Once you get someone talking it’s often hard for them to stop!

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

Buhl: I’ve learned that I can adapt to any environment and succeed by never being afraid to ask questions and listening closely to answers. My past internships were in film distribution and music recording, but I am excited to begin my first editorial internship with Detroit Hour Magazine this summer.

What’s been your best moment in journalism?

Buhl: My best moment in journalism was receiving the Armand and Eleanor Gerbert Scholarship last April and attending the awards ceremony with my fellow classmates and professors. Although getting paid for my writing for the first time was a close second! My article on a Freedom of Information Act Festival was featured on the Society of Professional Journalists’ Detroit Chapter’s website.

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

Buhl: For my photojournalism course, I made a photo-story video on a Christmas themed drag-queen bingo event titled “Jingle Bingo Balls!” Here’s the link to the story, including the video, on my blog

What do you want to accomplish in your journalism career?

Buhl: I want to help tell the stories of people who are often ignored, not heard, or not taken seriously. I will feel accomplished if someone tells me that my reporting has made a difference in their life. I truly believe that sharing stories, whether orally or in writing, is what makes us human and I want to connect with as many people as I can in this short life.

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

Buhl: I really admire Sarah Alvarez of Outlier Media and her work because she’s truly interested in getting the news that matters to the people who need it most, i.e. low income families in Detroit. I would love to ask for her advice on how to do the work that matters to you most while still being able to pay the bills! I’d also like to ask for her advice on how to stay strong as a female journalist in the age of the internet and online trolling and harassment.

Sarah Alvarez responds:


I’m truly flattered you would be interested in my advice and will do my best to give you something useful. Like I say to all my sources, you’ll have to let me know what happens. It’s the only way I’ll know if the information was any good.

It might sound counterintuitive but one of my guiding principles is, I’m willing to walk away at any moment. Reporting and working in news and information is bound up with what I care deeply about. That’s a privilege my ancestors have worked for me to have – very specifically – and I’m going to stretch in this space and stay here as long as I can.

Still, if I can’t do this work in a way that is consistent with my values and in spaces where my dignity is acknowledged I’ll just do different work. I’m not willing to go broke. I won’t work in an environment where power and respect aren’t easily shared. As long as I’m able to make choices about the work I do, those are choices I’m going to make.

I encourage you to think about why you do this work. Be really honest with yourself. You’ll have to keep that close and check-in with yourself. Ask yourself, often, if you’re putting out into the world what you hoped you would. Are you getting what you need? 

Protect your hunger to do your best work! Your value is with you – not your work – so always know you can do something else, create value in other ways. That goes for the trolls too, any place you work for needs to help protect you from abuse. If they can’t they need to help you navigate through abuse by paying for the resources you’ll need. 

I asked two of the women I respect most, Candice Fortman and Katlyn Alo, for the advice they would give you. Candice says, “The power in your work will come from understanding the needs of your community, not by assumption, but by asking them what they need from you and treating them as collaborative partners at each step. Do not underestimate their ability to know what they need and to be able to guide your hand in producing it in ways that make it useful.”  

Katlyn says, “We work on getting information to people who need it most and who are faced with systematic barriers to accessing that information. If that work were easy, more newsrooms would be doing it. Don’t mistake something no one has ever done before for something that’s impossible. We have a duty to correct the course of an industry that has balanced its books on advertising over creating business models for equity.”

Happy graduation. I’m sorry most of the traditional ways you would celebrate are not available to you because of what’s going on in the world. As a graduation gift, I’d like to commission a piece from you. Pitch me a few options. I’ll pay you $500, I’ll edit you and I’ll help you find the right place to publish it. 

What do you want potential employers to know about you?

Buhl: I want potential employers to know that I am transparent. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I speak my mind. This does not make me weak. I use my emotions, my empathy, and my thoughtfulness to connect to people and find ways to help them tell their story. I see journalism as a medium for the people — not just for politicians, celebrities, or experts. Good journalism, to me, means getting to the heart of the story and feeling what people are going through. Good journalism exposes past and current inequalities and cruelty while providing insight and intention for future action.

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

Buhl: I spend a lot of my time reading (news, magazines, memoirs, poetry, cooking books, comics, and basically anything I can get my hands on). I’m also a French major, so I love listening to French podcasts and watching French films. My newest passion has been motorcycling. I recently fixed up a beautiful 1973 Honda and have been practicing in empty parking lots around my neighborhood. (Don’t worry, I have my endorsement! It just took me a year to get my bike working!) Other than those activities, family is my number one priority.

If you’re a senior studying journalism, or know one, we’re accepting information here for students to feature in the future. If you’re a supporter, you can contribute here to scholarships for journalism students.