Words » Journalism

The Old College Try

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When Sky Blue Window's general manager asked our team to pick our favorite students stories, the task was tougher than I expected. The Butler University students with whom I've worked really cranked out a lot of content this school year. The first time I went to their  journalism lab, they sat doe-eyed and silent watching as their professor and I described Sky Blue Window and our requirements for publication. But by the end of spring semester, several students were emailing me story proposals like seasoned beat reporters. One texted me on a Friday night, excited to pitch the story idea of  Graeter's ice cream shop following his first visit. No, I didn't see an art angle to make it worthy of an assignment, but the student's enthusiasm impressed me. They all became familiar with the process and really came into their own.

I know the backstory on all the Butler assignments and plenty about those from Ivy Tech and IUPUI. There were snow storms and icy roads that delayed face-to-face interviews, and a bout of pneumonia that only slowed one of our student reporters, despite her coughing like a coal miner for weeks. Then there were the articles without any backstory. The students turned in nice publishable pieces on time and without setbacks or excuses. No drama, just hard work and good journalism. 

With all that in mind, here are some of the selections that those of us who worked most closely with our students at Butler, IUPUI, Ivy Tech and Franklin University want to highlight as these talented young men and women head off on summer break, internships or as some prepare to don their caps and gowns.


Martin Kuuskmann and Estonian-American conductor Kristjan Järvi before a performance of the Erkki-Sven Bassoon Concerto for amplified bassoon. - PETER ADAMIK
  • Peter Adamik
  • Martin Kuuskmann and Estonian-American conductor Kristjan Järvi before a performance of the Erkki-Sven Bassoon Concerto for amplified bassoon.

Recommended by Marc Allan, Butler University Adjunct Professor of Journalism

Pure Music by Colin Likas, Butler
Colin was incredibly enthusiastic about this story about bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann, and it showed in his storytelling. You want to walk away from a feature story feeling informed and entertained, and I was both.

Indy's Irish Soundtrack by Evelyn Schultz, Butler
Evie -- who was a freshman at the time -- came in with a story that was perfectly constructed and detailed, weaving together music and history seamlessly. This was Butler's first contribution to Sky Blue Window, so it's special in that way too.

S.M. Wolf’s Adam Gross performs at the “King of Suits” video premiere party at General Public Collective. - WHITNEY WALKER
  • Whitney Walker
  • S.M. Wolf’s Adam Gross performs at the “King of Suits” video premiere party at General Public Collective.

Recommended by Kirsten Eamon-Shine, Sky Blue Window General Manager

Bow Ties Biz by Kelsy Ralph
This snappy piece shares the story of a financial planner whose frustrations with tie shopping kick-started a new career in bow ties. Add in a fun mention of Mass Ave's finest fabric shop, a realtor who gifts neckwear to his clients and an oxytocin-printed tie, and you have a great set of lovely little, personal narratives that make a very specific topic appealing to a wide range of readers.

One-Stop Concept Shop by Matt Schumacker
Six friends launched a multi-use cook-kid space in Fountain Square. Together, they execute and/or host a number of cultural happenings -- poetry readings, art openings, chapbook sales and the like. This is another niche topic told so well that more than one of our editorial team members' mothers remarked about how exciting the project is, thanks to Matt's storytelling. Plus, this article led our Sky Blue Window staff to another new student contributor, photographer Whitney Walker, an IUPUI student.

By 1944, school #22's diversity increased, as did the community's population of Jewish and African-American residents. - COURTESY OF NEIGHBORHOOD OF SATURDAYS FAMILY MEMBERS
  • Courtesy Of Neighborhood Of Saturdays Family Members
  • By 1944, school #22's diversity increased, as did the community's population of Jewish and African-American residents.

Recommended by Mike Potter, Sky Blue Window Production Editor

Neighborhood of Saturdays by Michael Gorin, Butler
I love when we can run stories that teach me about the history of my city. Neighborhood of Saturdays really took me to a fairly distant time, but a place right next door. As our city becomes ever more diverse, and our cultural organizations change to reflect that, getting a peek into the past like this is a real treat.

Taking the "Ominous" Out of Writing by Kelsey Moore, IUPUI
Second Story is an organization close to my heart. Their mission is amazing, and I think Kelsey did a great job getting that across through her active scenes. It's hard building an orderly narrative out of a classroom full of elementary students. We like to tell stories that give our readers something to think or act on, and this piece does both. Bravo!

Independent bookstores have a distinct character that manifests in the spaces they occupy. Indy Reads is pictured on the left, Bookmamas on the right. - MIKE POTTER
  • Mike Potter
  • Independent bookstores have a distinct character that manifests in the spaces they occupy. Indy Reads is pictured on the left, Bookmamas on the right.

Recommended by Jami Stall, Sky Blue Window Editor

It's Not About the Income, It's About the Outcome by Donald Perin, Butler
I like this piece about Indy's independent bookstores that manage to survive (and sometimes thrive) despite the big box stores and online competition. I think the subject matter was important to share, and I applaud those in the business who can make it work -- for the love of books and bibliophiles around town. But I'm particularly proud of Don Perin who wrote the piece -- twice. He originally did the article right around the December holidays, but the evening before it was scheduled to post, we learned that one of the stores he featured, Big Hat Books, had announced its closing. The story had to be pulled at the last minute. But Perin continued to rally for the piece. He tried repeatedly to reach out to the store owner, despite a very difficult time for her. He genuinely felt for her and wanted to tell her story. Alas, that never came to fruition. But a few months later, he re-interviewed additional sources for the piece and rewrote it. Finally, it made its way onto the SBW site, and Perin couldn't have been prouder. What's more, after thanking us for the experience, he immediately pitched two more story ideas. He was smitten by the "byline bug." Have to love that!

A Pro Among Prose by Jeff Stanich, Butler
I like the piece on Indianapolis Colts' Dwayne Allen and his literacy efforts with the Indy Library just fine. It is informative and succinct, but what readers wouldn't know is that Stanich got the assignment the day before. The students typically have a month or so to research and write their pieces, but Stanich's original story idea didn't pan out. He hoped to cover a piece involving the Indianapolis Zoo, but its public relations department was less than helpful in working with our student reporter. At the eleventh hour, we learned his story idea was a no-go. But when the Dwayne Allen assignment popped up, Stanich was game for it. He was given the chance to write it as briefly and easily as possible. A Q&A format was suggested. Instead, the student went to a press conference the next afternoon, came home and knocked out a great piece -- a mini feature instead of a Q&A -- within a couple hours. That evening we had a couple of last-minute questions about the photos, and promptly and professionally he responded to emails, even at 11 o'clock at night. He followed the assignment through from start to finish like a pro, and I couldn't be more proud of his professionalism.


It's been a rewarding academic year thanks to our student writers, and you'll continue reading some of their work throughout the summer. We're glad to have had their voices and words contribute to our publication and look forward to even more next fall semester.

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