Journalism panel lends advice to communications students

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By Brianna Kurzynowski |

Flagler College’s Communication Department and PRSSA hosted the 11th annual Communications Week during the week of March 14 through 17. Held on Tuesday the journalism panel emphasized the importance of being a self-starter while working at internships and in future careers. The panelists in attendance explained how this will allow student journalists to gain their editor’s trust, which in turn will allow more freedom with their writing.

The panelists, Pierre Tristam, Joseph White and Melissa Ross, respectively pictured above, gave advice for students interested in their field. Tristam is the editor and publisher of, White is publisher and editor of White Publishing Company and Ross is the host, as well as a producer, for First Coast Connect on WJCT. Flagler’s own communication professor, Tracey Eaton, moderated the panel.

Eaton asked the panelist questions that any journalism major, or other communications students, could take advice from and succeed.

“Keeping up with the news,” Tristam said was one of his personal day-to-day difficulties. “Today is an easier day for keeping up with breaking news.” March 15, when the panel took place, was the day of Florida’s primary elections.

When asked to share his most bizarre moment he has experienced in his career, Tristam said, “even though there are hard, unpleasant times; there are interesting, great experiences.”

Tristam explained how his mother was a journalist and she took him along sometimes. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” he said. “As long as I have work, I am totally immersed in it; effecting change with publishing stories.”

Eaton agreed with Tristam on his last point. When speaking about Tristam’s stories Eaton said the stories on his website “cause readers to act.”

Tristam said researching the internship any student is about to work for is a good plan before starting. “See how they do things. You are on your own most of the time, be honest with your organization,” he said. “Integrity is the single most important thing in journalism.”

Speaking from his own experience, “the more I did was how I got the more freedom to do what I want,” he said. “Editors like when you come to them with stories.”

“As reporters doing jobs seriously, you do have to be jerks sometimes, you have to challenge others again and again and have a tough skin,” he said. “The problem is, the press has not been doing their job seriously and not asking very hard questions. The press has been a punching bag for generation…it is not going to change… reporters should not take it.”

Tristam believes the future of journalism is going to be different. “Qualities do not change. Whichever way business changes, you will not change,” he said. “Work ethic will be much more important than new technology skills.”

“The managerial and editorial choices,” is what White said he struggles with on a daily basis.

He said he went through several interesting and bizarre moments over the years. He talked about how he had the opportunity to interview Gov. Rick Scott the last time President Obama was in Florida.

White explained why he decided to join the journalism business. Being able to “actually create something, a tangible thing,” he said is his favorite part of journalism.

“An internship is only as good as what you put into it,” he said. “Do as many as you can to learn what you like.” White explained how he fell into his at Folio Weekly internship without expecting a good outcome.

Then White gave some advice to the audience on how to succeed in an internship.

“Show up on time and stay until the end of the day, do what is asked to do, make sure you do the minimum, if you do more that’s great, and do not be a jerk because it will make the job easier,” he said. “Do those three and you will be ahead of the curve.”

White believes the negative perception of journalism is “driven by Fox or national news outlets,” he said.

When asked where journalism is going in the future, he said the “technology will change so quickly.” But having quality writing is what will continue to make journalist stand out above their competition.

The third panelist, Melissa Ross said she deals with difficulties when it comes to producing her show. “A challenge is using the resources we have to try and make the show as good as a national show with the small staff,” she said.

Ross said it was hard for her to pick just one interesting or bizarre moment when asked by Eaton. “The most recent was when Congresswoman Corrine Brown hung up on me,” she said. “As crazy as the moment was, it was a learning experience.”

When asked why she does what she does every day, Ross explained why by telling about how she left the journalism business and eventually made her way back.

“When I left, I missed it. I really love broadcasting,” she said. “The biggest joy is creating a community.”

The next topic Ross discussed was interning. She explained how her company is really interested in interns. “We have worked with self-starters who are not afraid to jump in and do stuff, the more ideas you bring the better,” she said. There were even some students in the audience who had the privilege to intern with Ross.

“We have to take commitment to true journalism,” Ross said, when asked about the negative perception of journalism.

She stayed positive when asked about the future of the journalism industry. “We will find our way through it,” Ross said. “I am lucky enough to get to do it. It’s a privilege. I remind myself that on the bad days.”

Eaton agreed with the panelists. “It is a great time to be a journalist. We are on the front lines of history in the making. Journalists have more power now,” he said.

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