On Thursday, March 9, Spartan staff embarked on a journey to the big city. Nine Spartan writers piled into the van – NYC bound – with Spartan advisor and journalism professor Dave Blow at the wheel.
At the crack of dawn (around noon), Blow and managing editor Lily Doton blasted ’70s jams in the front while the majority of the crew tried to get some beauty rest for the long drive ahead. After 18 years of teaching, Blow has brought students to the College Media Association (CMA) Spring Convention for around 15 years.
And while Doton hasn’t been nearly as many times, this still wasn’t her first experience going to the CMA convention in the city.
“Last year I was still pretty new to journalism. I still didn’t really know that much. I feel like this year I went in more knowledgeable and more prepared for everything that we were going to be doing,” Doton said.
For sports editor Justin Gitto, things were a little different. It was his first time going to the conference and his expectations weren’t exactly high.
“When Dave first told us that we had to go the sessions, I was like, ‘oh great, this is going to be like in high school where the teacher puts on a movie and makes you take notes on it,’” Gitto said.
However, his mind was quickly changed.
“Dave made us go to five sessions. I ended up going to six because it was just really beneficial,” Gitto said.
And Gitto wasn’t the only one who found the sessions beneficial.
Wyatt Jackson, also a first-time attendee, felt impacted right after his first session about being an active writer and using an active voice.
“Its made me a little more creative in how I approach my stories and ideas I have and also become a better interviewer,” Jackson said. “I thought it was beneficial from a journalistic perspective and it boosted my overall outlook on becoming a journalist and bettering my craft.”
When asked what their favorite session was, senior Mason Parece talked about attending one to learn about career tips.
“My favorite session was this one on unconventional career tips and how to network. It was really focused on person-to-person networking instead of [going] online and applying for jobs through a program,” Parece said. “I thought it was really interesting because I guess I already knew it, but it’s like [being given] the permission to be allowed to do that.”
Copy editor Pearl Bellomo also attended a session that provided career advice – specifically characteristics that the New York Times looks for in young journalists.
“A few of the main themes were to have as much specific and relevant job or student experience as possible, find niche stories that aren’t already constantly talked about and put as much work into your smaller, seemingly insignificant stories as your big ones, as they will prove your reliability. These are the points I’ll keep in mind as I continue on the Spartan,” Bellomo said.
The Spartan staff learning and growing is exactly what Blow’s goal for the trip always is.
“It’s a perk for them for working hard, but it’s also hoping to spark more interest in in the field that I have loved for so long,” Blow said.
And overall, it’s clear that students gained a lot from attending the convention.
“I think it’s really cool that we get the opportunity to do something like this. It gives us an opportunity that normally we don’t have – to engage with the journalism community at large, because we’re such a small group,” Doton said. “We go to a small school in a small state, so we don’t have that much exposure to other newspapers.”
Alumni and previous Spartan managing editor Sophia Buckley-Clement was able to go as well. She said she was grateful to go on the trip and enjoyed seeing all her old Spartan pals.
“It was amazing to see everybody again. It’s been a few months since I’ve gotten to see the Spartan crew and I’m incredibly proud of everyone there and what they are doing,” Buckley-Clement said.
Buckley-Clement found she had the opportunity to learn more from sessions as well, despite being a professional journalist now.
When the sessions were over, the group found other ways to have fun. The only downside was Blow getting scammed by SeatGeek, but Gitto was able to find the humor in the situation.
“Wyatt and I watched Dave get robbed by SeatGeek which was pretty funny,” Gitto said. “We were looking forward to that basketball game. We literally sat outside that arena for like half an hour. But you know what, the whole group made the trip so much better. A lot of fun.”
Luckily, Blow was able to get a refund and the Spartan crew were able to not only learn about different aspects of writing and journalism, but also to grow closer as a group.
“They get to see me and each other in a different setting. Some people don’t know each other that well, and I hope bonds get made,” Blow said. “I’m always trying to make inroads and plan for the next generation.”
Senior Morgen Janovsky definitely felt that bonds were made.
“I wish I joined the newspaper sooner because the group of people that I traveled with are amazing and I’ve created some really strong friendships with them,” Janovsky said.
On the way home, they all even managed to share the same illness. And on top of that, they found out that they placed second in the 2023 Apple Awards for Best Newspaper from a college with a student population of 1,000 to 2,999.
“To find out that we won an award on the way home, too, that’s such icing on the cake. That makes that drive so much more pleasant. A lot of times we haven’t found out that quickly, but that was really neat,” Blow said.