Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Introducing the Class of 2020: Sam Cabral

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: Sam Cabral

School: Northwestern University, Medill School of Journalism

Location: Washington, D.C.  

Reported from: Berkeley, California; Chicago, Illinois; Melbourne, Australia

Latest Production: The Bulletin Burger

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

Cabral: The more time and effort you put in, the more you gain. Student media is always a bootstrap operation but it provides vital early experience that sets the foundation to keep growing. It also affords me greater confidence in taking a leap of faith when bigger opportunities come my way.

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

Cabral: Respect and manners get you a long way. I always made an effort to be pleasant, polite and friendly during each day of my internships. People always warm up to me because I am happy to be there but also willing to put in the work.

What’s been your best moment in journalism?

Cabral: The Iowa caucus was an unprecedented horror show, but I was lucky enough to be a part of one of its bright spots. My colleagues and I were one of only a handful of journalists that covered the first ever American Sign Language (ASL) caucus, in Des Moines, IA. As I documented the event, I was overjoyed that I had chosen to report on an event that may have seemed inconsequential to those covering the day’s events but was of priceless value to the deaf Iowans who were able to participate in the caucus.

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

Cabral: On my 25th birthday, I covered my first ever primary debate night. My press credentials granted me incredible access to nearly the entire field of Democrats running for president in 2020, as well as all the top politics journalists in the country in the press filing center. It resulted in one of the best pieces I have written to date – an inside look at the intrigues of the spin room. It is chock full of the greatest sound bites I could have hoped to get.

What do you want to accomplish in your journalism career?

Cabral: I want to add value to the lives of news consumers. Rebuilding trust and repairing the lost connection the news media once had with members of the public is a crucial mission, and I believe it begins with being fair and honest in my own reporting, but also requires that my content has a tangible positive impact on those who consume it.

Since everything went haywire a few weeks ago, I have begun to produce a daily video segment called the Bulletin Burger.

It’s tough to stomach all the bad news we are hearing these days. People falling sick, dying, losing their jobs and healthcare, closing their businesses… So much of what is going on is liable to make you feel upset and uneasy. As journalists, we need to talk about these hard truths, but we cannot ground them into the dirt with negativity. What I’ve found is that people tend to digest bad news better when there’s good news to go with it.

Last month, as I browsed through my Instagram feed, I noticed two things: an impending ‘doom and gloom’ about the future and a sense of frustration with the relentless bad news. To feel a little better, I dug up some news and shared it on my Instagram story as a good news – bad news – good news burger. Then I did it again and again, as I began to receive unexpected messages of gratitude and encouragement, sometimes from people I barely spoke to.

In the space of a few weeks, the seed kept growing and it has now morphed into The Bulletin Burger, a daily IGTV video segment. Think of it as a rework of the complement sandwich – some good news on top, some bad news in the middle and more good news on the bottom.

Our lives have changed so much so fast. Let’s try to make sense of it all together. I’ll be posting new videos every weekday morning on IGTV and YouTube. Check out the latest episode here and subscribe if you like what you see.

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

Cabral: Tim Alberta of Politico Magazine. I admire his news judgment and level-headed approach to stories. I rarely miss anything he has written, particularly the politician profiles. I would ask him how I can bring more of that human touch to the cold and cynical world of political reporting, something he often seems to accomplish, particularly in his coverage of Michigan politics (his home state). I also loved his book ‘American Carnage.’

What do you want potential employers to know about you?

Cabral: I have no desire to make up the numbers in your newsroom. I want to be the guy that is bringing eyeballs to your product, whether it’s with solid deeply-reported print pieces, creative and nuanced video stories or digital content on social media (Instagram, Twitter and TikTok). 

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

Cabral: I tick off my watchlist of classic movies (Hitchcock, Kubrick, etc.), read profiles and autobiographies of political figureheads, make music playlists on Spotify, stay active (hiking, kayaking, etc.) and travel.

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