Eleven William & Mary students completed the sixth Sharp Writer-in-Residence Program, working with Pulitzer Center-supported journalist Stephanie Hanes during the 2016-2017 academic year to develop their writing and reporting skills. The program is a joint Campus Consortium initiative with the Pulitzer Center and The College of William & Mary's Roy R. Charles Center for Academic Excellence, supported by William & Mary alumni Anne and Barry Sharp.
For the 2016-2017 seminar, Hanes led students through the process of developing their reporting projects. This year, she worked with Pulitzer Center staff members Ann Peters, Steve Sapienza, and Emily Baumgaertner and Pulitzer Center grantees Will Fitzgibbon and Steve Elfers to create a series of round-robin seminar workshops to focus on storytelling through visual means, overcoming reporting roadblocks and developing each students' project. In overview sessions, students delved into basic reporting techniques, interviewing skills, journalism ethics and issues in today’s media landscape.
During each workshop, journalists highlighted techniques they learned on their own reporting trips, covering a range of issues: Fitzgibbon on the risks of extraction and Australian mining in Africa; Elfers on the effects groundwater depletion across five regions; and Baumgaertner on the lasting effects of the virus in Ebola survivors.
On the winter visit, Elfers, director of multimedia at USA Today, emphasized the similarities between storytelling through print and video, touching on the role of the videographer in facilitating the audience’s understanding of the issue. “Your prose should crackle with bits of reality.” Students learned that video can “take you somewhere in a video snapshot that compresses time.” Elfers encouraged students to find the people affected by the issue they’re reporting, and to use the voices of those characters to do the storytelling, to back up what the expert facts.
The College launched its Campus Consortium partnership in fall 2011 with the first Sharp Writer-in-Residence Program. Following the Sharps' vision, the College and the Pulitzer Center continue to offer a unique experience for students, developing integrated programming segments during the academic year tied together through a three-credit seminar. The idea behind the seminar is for students to develop areas of academic or personal interest into journalistic pieces and communicate to a broader audience - in short writing for their fellow citizens.
Each student undertook a reporting project of his or her own topic choice and worked with the journalists to craft the final written product, published on the Pulitzer Center platform and on the William & Mary Charles Center site. Many students rounded out their reporting with separate travel grants provided by the College. Several students added a photographic component to their reporting, bringing to life those affected by the change in society, policy, or environment. Others investigated academic and government reports, searching for the root of the issues on which they reported.
These final products are the culmination of the students' independent reporting and the mentoring support during the 2016-2017 Sharp seminar.