Trying to seperate from the ‘horde’

At 6:55 p.m. on March 3, Castleton State College’s Glenbrook Gymnasium was packed with students. They weren’t there for a basketball game or a pep rally, but to listen to a speaker with words of advice to her peers.
Tracy Schmidt is 23 years old, and already highly accomplished in the field of journalism. She has already worked as the editor of — and has even turned down further opportunities with the magazine to pursue other goals, goals like education, and furthering her studies.
Schmidt wasn’t at Castleton, however, to talk about where she’s going; she was there to talk about where she’s been, and how she got there at such a young age. It was her experience at Virginia Tech University, and the days she spent there after one of the most violent shootings in American history that she shared with the audience.
Before her biggest story though, she told of how she managed to get to such a position of prestige with Time. She preached determination and persistence, she told about how she didn’t stop trying when her editors at Time told her that a story idea wasn’t any good.
She explained that even though most would see her youth as an obstacle and a point of negativity, she and anyone her age, can prove them wrong.
“I want to do this, I don’t care if you think I’m too young,” she described as a mantra — and eventually her older editors bought into it.
She wrote several pieces that received praise and led to copy-cat stories on CNN, The Today Show and even MTV.
Her young age, to her, wasn’t a hindrance, but a tool to be put to her advantage, and she didn’t fully realize that until she arrived on campus at Virginia Tech. She drove four hours in a rental car to get to the campus, and when she arrived, she saw that media horde (400 reporters and at least 40 satellite news trucks) was anything but welcome by the students.
She couldn’t help but feel a part of the insensitive swarm of reporters infesting the campus with nothing but questions and yells.
“Kentucky! I need a student from Kentucky!” one reporter shouted to a line of grieving students, only concerned with getting a good interview for his hometown paper.
Schmidt took an altogether different approach, usually approaching a student with the line, “Hi, I’m Tracy. I’m 22 years old and I just happen to be a reporter for Time. I know talking to reporters is hard now, but could I ask you a few questions.”
In most cases, the students would respond positively, and grant her the interviews she needed. Other than an ethical approach to the students, she was innovative enough to use the popular college site to find students who had been in the classes that were attacked.
“I’m 22 (at the time),” she said, “I know how students think. I knew students would be on Facebook.”
She searched Facebook, and had to figure out which users had been killed or injured in the attacks, and often that information was on the site, posted by friends and loved ones. Through the Internet site, she found a student, Clay Violand, who granted her an exclusive account of what happened.
Thanks to her age and her knowledge of peers, she was able to get one of the best stories about Virginia Tech.
“Despite being 22, I can hold my own even with Katie Couric and Wolf Blitzer,” she said.
After reciting Violand’s account of the shooting and finishing her discussion, the students in the Castleton gym were silent and few asked questions. One girl, after asking her a question about adversity and getting a reply, told Schmidt “you’re amazing.”
The students were impressed and inspired by what she said. After the speech, when most were clearing out Castleton sophomore Sean Riccio praised her.
“(What she did at V.T.) gave people a good impression of journalists and what they’re supposed to do. Tracy shows what a journalist is supposed to do — show the heart of the story, not partake in sensationalism,” Riccio said.
Now Schmidt is working as a freelance writer, sending out resumes and thinking about the future.
“At the moment I’m kind of hanging out, looking for a job, and sending stories out,” she said.

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