CMU-educated journalists, broadcasters deliver 2020 visions
Students and recent graduates cover the year’s biggest news so far
A global pandemic, historic floods, mass protests: Some of the year's most important stories so far are being brought to you by Central Michigan University journalism, photojournalism, and broadcast and cinematic arts interns and recent graduates all over Michigan.
CMU offers Michigan's only photojournalism major and has one of only two accredited journalism programs in the state.
"Our students are known for graduating with a strong knowledge of the fundamentals and what needs to be done," said Jim Wojcik, Journalism faculty member and internship coordinator. "They also have strong work ethics. They really have a passion to get better. They want to learn and understand their profession more."
That reputation pays off on the track toward successful careers. Surveys of December 2018 and May 2019 journalism graduates found 88% were either employed, in graduate school or in other situations they favored.
Interested in building a career by developing the skills of a journalist or broadcaster? Learn more about our programs:
The journey often includes hands-on internships covering news that matters.
Junior Andrew Mullin, a journalism major from Brighton, Michigan, writes two or more stories each day as a reporting intern for The Ann Arbor News/MLive.com. The coronavirus crisis factors into nearly everything he reports.
"I've written primarily about how businesses have adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic," he said. "One example is how the bicycle industry has been booming."
Experience is how journalists are made, Wojcik said.
"Theory is wonderful, but practice is real," he said. "We can talk about a pandemic, but unless you're out there covering it, the good, the bad and the ugly — until you're there, until you see the emotion, until you realize this is all real — you don't really understand what it means."
“There are always stories that need telling.” — Katy Kildee, photojournalism graduate
Katy Kildee understands. As the sole staff photographer for the Midland Daily News, she's covering the community's response to COVID-19, the devastating flooding and its aftermath, and recent action for racial justice.
"I am definitely surprised by the amount of major news stories in 2020," she said. "Part of me wants to say that I look forward to things quieting down, but another part of me knows better. There are always stories that need telling, and I feel honored to be a part of that."
Midland Daily News Editor Kate Hessling feels honored to have Kildee on staff.
"Our photojournalist, one of the best in the entire state of Michigan, has really shined during these unprecedented times, and her work has been picked up by the Washington Post and New York Times," Hessling said. "Our news reporters, the majority of whom are newly graduated from CMU, have been forced to work out of their comfort zone, and they have done reporting on par with much, much larger newsrooms across the nation.
"I am incredibly proud of this team and thankful for CMU's role in developing these bright journalists."
Kildee, who earned her CMU degree in photojournalism in 2015, gave a shout-out to faculty member Kent Miller.
"His classes pushed me to truly connect with people I photograph, which is the key to good photojournalism," she said.
One 'yes' for success
Dana Whyte, a 2018 broadcast and cinematic arts graduate, has covered both the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement as a daybreak reporter at WOOD-TV 8 in Grand Rapids.
"it's career-changing that I'm able to document history like this so early on in my career," she said.
She and her colleagues had to be flexible enough to cover COVID-19 working only from home and in the field and relying on video and phone interviews.
Reporting on the racial justice movement has posed its own challenges: Whyte said she was tear gassed while covering protests in Grand Rapids.
v"I am not saying this for recognition, but rather to show the community that journalists are out on the front lines during this time," she said.
Whyte, too, credits her success to her CMU experience and faculty.
"Without CMU and News Central 34 I don't think I could've landed a reporter job at the No. 1 station in Grand Rapids after being in the industry professionally for less than two years," she said. "Professor Rick Sykes is a great mentor who genuinely cares about his students, and I think that's so important when seeking a job in the news industry. As he also taught me, you only need one 'yes' to succeed."
Senior Isaac Ritchey, a journalism major and multimedia design minor from Howard City, Michigan, is freelancing this summer in lieu of an internship. His assignments include covering a recent protest for Epicenter Mt. Pleasant magazine.
"When I started at CMU, I never could have dreamed I would be where I am now," he said. "I have had so many incredible opportunities — from covering current national issues to shooting the MAC championship at Ford Field."
Ritchey said many of his opportunities have come through Central Michigan Life, CMU's award-winning student-run media company. For a special edition in April covering the pandemic, he photographed many different types of CMU workers considered essential to remain on campus and continue operations.
"Covering a pandemic was an experience I am grateful for but hope to never have again," he said.
Telling untold stories
Reporter Melissa Frick learned the ropes as a student journalist, too.
"It was there that I learned how to work in a newsroom, develop sources and uncover important stories," she said. "My connections at CM Life are what helped me land several newsroom internships during college and also allowed me to network with well-established journalists around the country, eventually helping me land an incredible post-graduation job."
Frick, who graduated in May with a double major in journalism and Spanish, covers education, health care and Muskegon County government for the Muskegon Chronicle/MLive.com. When damaging floods hit that region, she was there.
"West Michigan flooding hasn't received as much attention but has still been catastrophic for so many residents," she said. "Without local journalism, these stories would go untold."
'It is my passion'
On the other side of the state, Kaytie Boomer is an MLive.com multimedia specialist in the Saginaw and Bay City areas. She's covered the pandemic since March and traveled to Midland to capture the flood and the start of recovery.
"Covering historic events such as these is incredibly important to me," said Boomer, who earned her CMU photojournalism degree in 2016. "It is a necessity for it to be documented, and it is my passion to do so."