Q & A With the Orlando Sentinel

Orlando Sentinel education reporter Gabrielle Russon along with multimedia artists Andrew Gibson and Charles Minshew came to Valencia as part of News Engagement Day. The Valencia Voice had the opportunity to speak with them after their Q&A with Professor Newman’s News Reporting class.

Hali Neal [to Russon]: What made you decide to cover higher education?

Gabrielle Russon: It’s exciting!

HN: And [to Minshew] What made you get into digital media?

Charles Minshew: I actually didn’t know I wanted to do it until I dabbled a bit in it in grad school.

HN: What should students keep in mind when looking for clips for internship applications?

GR: Storytelling, great lead, if the stories are ambitious, variety – as in it’s not just one topic. The way you tell the story is important too, especially if you had to struggle for a particular story. It’s also important to be flexible, passionate, and have the ability to work with other people.

HN: Can an internship with the Sentinel lead to either a part time or a full time position?

Andrew Gibson: There’s no official internship-to-employment pipeline, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. If you make a great impression and a position becomes available, they’d much rather go with that person. Maybe not right away, but possibly after graduation.

HN: Strategies for getting long interviews up in a timely fashion?

GR: Look at the timestamp; take notes also, just in case the recording fails. Ask yourself, “what is this story about?” and just make sure you notate the important stuff.

HN: Advice for when you’re interviewing someone and they clearly don’t want to be there and are just giving you monosyllabic answers and are just generally like “why [are they there]”?

GR: This would be a better question to ask Sandra [Pedicini, theme park reporter for the Sentinel, who was in the Q&A via Twitter], but I would encourage the person, ask them to explain, ask them to tell me more, try to coax some stories out of them, and ask them to describe more.

HN: Are stories assigned by your editor?

GR: Not really, it’s more up to the writer to pitch them with ideas otherwise you might not like what the editor assigns you.

HN: Would you suggest that even new journalists pitch the editor ideas?

GR: Yes, definitely.

HN: Advice for new journalists?

GR: Don’t be boring. And don’t get discouraged. There are jobs out there.

CM: Don’t be afraid to mess up or fail. You can always salvage or use that experience.

AG: Keep an open mind, don’t be too stubborn.

HN: What are the essential skills you’d say you need to be a journalist?

GR: Be a good listener and have a natural curiosity. Make sure you get to breaking news quickly.

CM: An open mind. Have to avoid bias.

HN: How’d you start writing for the Sentinel? [To Andrew] I know you said internship.

AG: Yeah, I started as an intern and then they liked me enough to hire me I guess.

GR: Well, I’m from the Midwest and I moved to Sarasota [Fla.] and there just happened to be an opening.

CM: Well, I was doing grad school at the same school Andrew was and the Sentinel asked Andrew if there were any more students like him since they needed someone to fill a full-time position. Andrew recommended me and it ended up being my first full-time job.

HN: What was the defining moment that made you decide you wanted to be a journalist? If you have one that is.

GR: I guess it was because I struggled so hard to get here. My high school didn’t have a newspaper and my college was really big so it was competitive to get on the newspaper. And then here I am and it’s too late to change now.

AG: Mine was when Obama won over McCain in ’08.

CM: I don’t really have a defining moment, but I do have a fun moment.

HN: Okay, well fun moment then.

CM: There was an article on bear hunting permits, which was a big deal at the time and I see this name come up on the list and it’s Ted Nugent, like the rock star with all his phone number and contact information and everything. So I run over to the reporter and say, “Ted Nugent, this big rock star, is on the list. You NEED to call him!” and it turned out to be a completely different story and it was great.

HN: What do you think news organizations can do to get young people engaged with the news?

CM: Do you know the answer to that? ‘Cause I don’t. It’s just always changing. I mean, I never thought we’d be getting our news from Snapchat, but Caitlin, our tourism reporter, did a whole thing on Halloween Horror Nights. You could tell she was scared too (smiles).

HN: So I know you two [Minshew and Gibson] are both multimedia artists, but you said that there’s a slight difference between your specifications. Could you explain what those differences are?

AG: Well for me, it’s more mobile stuff and coding. So much coding.

CM: For me, it’s more crunching numbers.

HN: Does the Sentinel do anything specific for News Engagement Day?

CM: Other than today [October 5], no. I love this though, speaking to students.

HN: Okay, well I think that was all the questions I had. Thank you.

All: Thank you.

GR: Let us know when it’s up.