The Student Journalism Program Experience – Interview with Sara Miller
Roger Utnehmer, Director of the WIPPS Student Journalism Program, interviewed Sara Miller about her experience working as a student journalist. As a member of the program, Sara has been able to write for DoorCountyDailyNews.com while she is still in high school.
The Student Journalism Program allows high school students to gain experience in journalism by getting paid to write stories for local radio, print and online news media. Participants learn marketable skills, interact with media professionals, and have their stories read by the public.
The program is open to high school students of all backgrounds and abilities who have an interest in writing, telling or creating stories. To learn more about the WIPPS Student Journalism Program, visit wipps.org.
Full Interview Transcript:
Roger: Well, I’m Roger Utnehmer, the director for the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy and Service Student Journalism Program. This is a program that is designed to connect high school students throughout Wisconsin with opportunities to learn about careers in journalism by working at local newspapers and radio stations. And one of the finest students that I have seen in this program writes for Door County Daily News, she is Sara Miller, and she is with us right now. Sara, welcome, and will you be kind enough to share what you have found that you like about the student journalism program and writing for Door County Daily News?
Sara: Well, I think the aspect of it that I like the most is that I get to have a little taste of what journalism is while I’m still in school. I like being able to provide information to the community about important things that could be happening, as well as have the opportunity to grow in what could be my career and grow in my confidence.
Roger: Can you think of a story or two that you believe made a difference that you are proud of writing?
Sara: I wrote a few article son tips for staying safe whether that be in winter weather or Halloween when you’re trick or treating and I feel that is impactful because some people may not know how to stay safe or what to do so I thought that was really impactful. There was one article I wrote that was impactful it was my first one and I was able to interview a teacher at my school and it was cool to share both his story and [resent myself as a journalist.
Roger: So, you’re saying that being a student journalist really gives you the opportunity to make a measurable difference?
Roger: Any other stories that come to mind where you believe you have made people better citizens, better participants, and more civilly engaged in our democratic process?
Sara: I’ve written a lot about charities like food banks and that is important and impactful because it lets the community know how they can get involved and help those in need.
Roger: What kind of feedback do you get from people who read what you write or hear it on the radio?
Sara: I hear a lot from friends and family who look out for what I’ve written and I hear a lot from teachers that see my article and say “that is so cool, I’m so proud of you” and it makes me feel proud of what I do knowing that these people who are in my life recognize what I do.
Roger: You should get a jail free card and certainly a free parking pass at the high school for all of the positive publicity that you generate as a student journalist. If another student were to ask you about participating in this program, what advice could you give them about the value of being a student journalist for a group of radio stations and an electronic newspaper?
Sara: I would say it might be scary in taking next steps towards your career, but it really is amazing to be able to join in and learn from a group of mentors who will teach you about what you are interested in and it is definitely a next step that is very fun and important to take.
Roger: Has this experience changed you in any way?
Sara: I would definitely say that it has. I have become more confident in both my skills talking to other people with the amount of people I interview and talk to and I have a realization about my future and it has solidified the thoughts I have had about what I want to be and what kind of journalist I want to be.
Roger: So, you are very interested in pursuing a career in journalism after you leave your part time student position at Door County Daily News?
Sara: Yes, every college I have toured I always make sure to look at their little pamphlet and make sure they have something with journalism in it.
Roger: What misconception do you think potential participants and future students that would participate in the student journalism program might have?
Sara: I think one of the misconceptions that I had and the other students I’ve spoken to is when you first join on you have this feeling that you need to know everything or you need to be able to do your job as good as the people around you that have ten years of experience and are professionals and I would say that is completely untrue because your job as a student journalist is to learn and listen and gather and absorb as much information from the people around you as possible.
Roger: Is it fair to say that if you had this experience to do over again you would absolutely do it with enthusiasm?
Sara: 100%. I wouldn’t give up this opportunity or experience for anything. It has helped me grow as a person so much and I am thankful for the opportunity.
Roger: What are you singularly most proud of accomplishing as a student journalist?
Sara: I think I am most proud of is putting my name out there as someone from a small town it is hard to think that what you are doing as a teenager may not be impactful but doing this I’ve been able to put my name in a byline and when I call people they are like “oh I’ve talked to you before thank you so much for calling” so I think being able to say “I am a writer” and being able to make that distinction is something that I am most proud of.
Roger: Has there been anything that you have encountered since becoming a writer for Door County Daily News that has surprised you?
Sara: What surprised me the most was the connection to community that I would feel. I had no idea that when I took the job I would become so connected with the country of Door and Kewaunee talking to so many people that I’ve lived close to my entire lie and seeing it from a different vantage point and seeing that sense of community and encouraging other people to take advantage of it as well.
Roger: Well the quality of your work and your very articulate enthusiasm for this program makes me very confident that our future generations have significant reason for optimism and if we had more students like you participating throughout the state of Wisconsin, working with newspapers and radio stations I do believe that we could accomplish our goal of restoring civility to our civil discourse, making people better citizens, and engaging more people in the democratic process. So, I really thank you Sara and commend you for an outstanding service that you are providing not only for the school districts about which you write but for the many programs you bring positive attention to in your stories. You are truly making a difference and that is sincerely remarkable for someone your age, so I commend you and recommend that your boss give a significant increase in pay. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing what the next step in your career will be.
Sara: Thank you so much.