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At SAU, Building New 'New Journalists' is Old News

 
Sara Clifton

March 2013


As a full-time student, editor of The Buzz student newspaper, an anchor/reporter/director/videographer on the SAUtv news team, a part-time video editor at WQAD-TV in Moline, Ill., a freelance production assistant for Mediacom-TV and an occasional columnist for The Dispatch in Moline and the Rock Island Argus (pause here to catch your breath), St. Ambrose senior Sara Clifton defines busy.

"Every other Sunday is pretty nice," the 22-year-old student from Coal Valley, Ill., said when asked when she might stop to catch her breath. "That's my ‘I'm-going-to-do-nothing-today day.'"

The following Monday, though, will find her back in the maelstrom, on the go from 9 a.m. until the late-night newscast at WQAD is finished or a basketball doubleheader she might be shooting for SAUtv has concluded.

"Her work ethic is unbelievable," said Alan Sivell, a communication instructor and faculty advisor for The Buzz. "She is always there. She is very bright. And everybody likes her, which isn't always the case with the boss."

Clifton had little interest in broadcasting when she transferred to St. Ambrose from Black Hawk College in the fall of 2011. She fell in love with print journalism while serving as editor of her high school yearbook and envisioned working in a newspaper newsroom after college.

But the SAU Communication Department doesn't just offer students the opportunity to study all forms of media. It requires crossover classwork. And it has done so since Sivell joined the faculty 26 years ago.

"The idea is we want to give you a little bit of everything," he said, "because you don't know what the future is going to hold. Everything changes very fast in the communications industry."

Change has been dizzying in the news business over the past decade. The proliferation of web-based news and the advent of a 24/7 news cycle is forcing TV reporters to write and newspaper reporters to produce quality video.

This multi-media multi-tasking has been called the new New Journalism. But here, building new new journalists is old news.

With her double major in journalism and radio and television Clifton feels she will be ready for anything when she graduates in May. Anything, that is, besides leaving St. Ambrose.

In junior college, she stacked her classes to "get in, get out, get back home," she said. And Clifton expected to feel the same way about St. Ambrose. Instead, she said, she found a community and a sense of belonging. "I want to spend all day here," she said.

Here's the buzz: She often does.

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