The Spartan takes on NYC

As the snowflakes clumped thicker and the winds blew faster, the hands of the clock seemed to be waving goodbye to the weekend that members of The Spartan staff had long been anticipating.
The promise of a three-day escape from the bitter Vermont temperatures to plunge into the center of Manhattan for a media conference appeared destined to be buried with the rest of Castleton beneath the blanket of winter storm Vulcan.
According to Spartan Advisor Dave Blow, in his eight-year tradition of attending the College Media Association New York City Conference, this year’s departure was by far the most complicated.
“I was emailing all Tuesday night trying to make this happen,” he said. “Dave Wolk was gracious enough to get us into the Queensbury Hotel.”
Blow said the conference is a valuable experience to expose his students to different types of journalists and professionals who share their passions.
With the help of Wolk, the group was able to make a day early departure and wait out the storm a little further south in Glens Falls, N.Y. Early the next morning, the groggy group fueled up on hotel coffee, scraped the sheets of ice from the van mirrors, and began the trek to the world’s Mecca of media and communication.
During the three days in New York City, the group adopted the “city that never sleeps” mentality and sought to get the most out of the experience. In addition to attending the conference sessions held in the Sheraton Hotel, the staff attended The Big East Tournament quarterfinals basketball games in Madison Square Garden, bartered with street venders in Chinatown, and shared a group dinner in Little Italy.
“New York City was one of my favorite school activities I have done here at Castleton,” said senior Stacy Sullivan.
Sullivan also had the opportunity to tour the Google building, which she said was so large employees had to ride scooters to move quickly throughout the building.
For sophomore Co-Sports Editor Kaylee Pratt, the most memorable experience was attending the Big East Tournament.
“Sitting over the court on the catwalk was awesome and it’s something I will never forget,” she said.
Co-Editor Rebecca Roe and Online Editor Joshua Bassett enjoyed their time taking in the magic of the city while catching up not only with each other, but also with former Spartan Editor Martina Marchese, who joined the group for the weekend.
Despite the distractions downtown Manhattan has the tendency to provide, the group unanimously agreed that the conference sessions were the most powerful aspect of the trip.
Roe and Bassett both said their session on how to find story ideas impacted them the most.
“The speaker was extremely energetic and the audience reacted well to it,” Roe said. “He gave me really great ideas for future issues.”
From discussing social trends to oddities the two said the session opened up their imaginations.
“It’s amazing how many stories are out there if you look at things from a different perspective,” Bassett said.
The rest of the group attended the final session of the conference by keynote speaker Michael Skolnik and were astounded by his presentation about covering tragedy.
“I found a passion in storytelling. I never stopped believing in that passion,” said Skolnik as he recounted his experiences reporting on the deaths of black children.
According to Skolnik, when a white child dies, society sees the tragic, untimely death of an innocent person. He said names like Jean Bene Ramsey and Natalie Holloway will forever be remembered and directly connected with the tragedy. However, he said when a black child dies they become a statistic.
Skolnik said the fortunate ones get a small article in the back pages of a newspaper, but society does not see their faces and have them ingrained in their memories by the media as they do with the death of a white child.
“I decided to tell stories that are not my own, tell stories for those who don’t have the chance to tell their own stories.”With the experience of exposing the deaths of a few black children, Skolnik caught wind of the Trayvon Martin story and pitched the story to his boss.
“I said I’m going to write a story about white people…I called it ‘Dear White People, you’ll never look suspicious like Trayvon Martin,'” he said.
The following day, Skolnik received a call from NPR. Then CBS and CNN were on the side of the ringing phone.
His friendship with Gabrielle Union, fiancé to NBA star Dwayne Wade, helped bring the story into the national spotlight when the Miami Heat asked how they could help the cause. Skolnik told them to take a picture with their hoods up like Martin’s was the night he was shot and killed.
“The next day, the entire team in Heat attire put their hoodies up,” he said.
Skolnik said that as a result of his coverage of the Martin story and soon after the death of another black teen, Jordan Davis, President Barack Obama invited him to the White House with the families of the deceased teens.
“It was a powerful presentation with a lot of emotion,” said senior page designer Nick Lingardo of Skolnik’s session.
In addition to learning from the experiences of professionals, the conference provided the staff with the opportunity to make connections with people in their intended fields.
“I think this is an opportunity for students to network with not only other students with like interests but with professionals,” said Andrea Franz, a conference presenter from North West Iowa. “You can make some awesome connections here.”
According to Blow, the conference is both a reward for his students as well as an opportunity to ignite their passions and expose them to aspects of  journalism and communication they have not experienced.
“I hope these trips are something you guys look back on,” said Blow.

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