“If you want to be in journalism, you have to get your hands dirty;” Melanie Bencosme, Queens College alumna and video journalist for NBC News Digital, told QC students during a panel sponsored by The Knight News on November 15, entitled, “Journalism at Queens College.” The event brought together four QC graduates currently pursuing careers in different sectors of the journalism field to speak to students about what it takes to make it as a journalist. Throughout the event, some tips offered by the panelists included obtaining an internship, starting blog, becoming a freelance writer, or joining the school newspaper. As Bencosme suggested, employers of the competitive, yet rewarding, industry want hardworking and passionate individuals who have more than simply a degree to offer.
Ameila Inderjeit, Editor-in-Chief of The Knight News, started off the Q&A-styled event by introducing the featured guests: Damian Hardeen, founder and producer of Forward Nation Radio; Alexa Tanney, Editor-in-Chief of pizzabottle.com; Ariel Scotti, lifestyle reporter and features writer for the New York Daily News; and Melanie Bencosme, video journalist for NBC, all former QC students who pursued degrees in media studies, journalism, and/or English while at the college. Reflecting back on her experience studying within a few of these departments, Tanney said, “People underestimate both [the Journalism and Media Studies] programs because they’re the smaller programs on this campus and people…say [that] they would go to different schools if they were focusing on [those fields]. [But]… these programs have such great professors and … are so incredibly experienced in … media and journalism.” Indeed, it was the close-knit relationships with professors that Tanney believed differentiated the journalism and media programs at QC from other universities. “I say all the time that being in a smaller program is very rewarding because sometimes when you go to a bigger school that has bigger [programs]… you don’t [get to] experience [receiving much] feedback from your professors. The professors are usually a lot busier or there are so many [people] in the class that it’s not a very personal experience,” she said.
After the panelists talked through their career trajectories and offered over their advice, Inderjeit asked them to comment on the current state of journalism in the Trump-era, where allegations of “fake news” is rampant and journalists are often being challenged about their authenticity. Hardeen was the first to respond, “[A]s journalists, [we are] a part of the fourth estate, and what that means is that we have a responsibility to inform, and inform. As members of the media, you have a lot of power over what people receive as far as information goes…we have to use that power very wisely… to benefit our fellow citizens,” he cautioned.
Expanding on Hardeen’s words, Scotti said, “Part of the reason why we are in the current situation that we are now is because of ridiculous, over the top, unheard of, absurd things that came out [of] that campaign and now this administration is what the focus is on instead of actual policy and bills that are being passed overnight while you… are asleep.” She continued, “The only thing that is being covered is [President Trump] tweeting about something, or the last person he made fun of…I think that we, as journalists, need to do a better job of deciding what gets the amount of coverage [and] attention that it does.” Still, as long as the public needs information, all four panelists agreed, journalists will be here to provide it through any and every platform.
As the discussion came to a close, those who attended thanked Bencosme, Hardeen, Scotti and Tanney for their advice to QC students and contribution to the field of journalism. With the success of The Knight News’ first sponsored event, the club plans to continue giving students opportunities to learn more about journalism and hear from current individuals working in the field with future events come spring semester.