Journalism students work for community clients

by Michelle Rainer

Graduate students in Concor-dia's print journalism program have gained practical experience and helped the community at the same time.

"I saw that we needed to produce some material that really looked like a journalistic effort, and that there were young people who needed to learn their trade, so I put the two together," said Marjolaine Lalonde, co-ordinator of volunteer support at Montreal Children's Hospital.

During the summer, Lalonde approached the Journalism Department to ask if students would produce a brochure highlighting the efforts of hospital volunteers. Since Sheila Arnopoulos, who teaches feature writing to the graduate diploma class, had already planned to include a pro file assignment, it seemed to be a match made in heaven.

"Being a teacher who likes to promote students getting published, it was nice to have a project that would contribute to their portfolios and at the same time contribute to a community service," said Arnopoulos. "Generally, it worked quite well. Everybody had to do an original, a re-write and what I call a 'polish.' The hospital was really pleased with the result."

The students were responsible for arranging their own interviews, and many went to the hospital to watch the volunteers in action. In doing so, they gained an appreciation for the volunteers' motivation and commitment to their jobs.

Graduate student Anne-Michèle Fortmann said the project was a valuable experience and is looking forward to adding the profile she wrote to her portfolio. "It was interesting. It's always good practice to interview people," said Fortmann, who also took photos of the volunteers. "I think what was important was to try to get the highlight of what she [the volunteer] was doing, sort of to find a special moment."

But the students not only interviewed volunteers and wrote articles, they also used the desktop publishing skills learned in instructor Andrea Shepherd's QuarkXPress class to design the finished product.

Fortmann says she enjoyed overseeing the whole process, from the interviewing to the writing and layout. "Usually, when you write, you wonder what the editor will change, what the article will look like. With this, we were in control of everything."

The pamphlet will soon be printed, and plans are already in the works to continue the project with next year's class.

"I think it would be a very good thing to consolidate for the future," said Lalonde. "The collaboration so far has been very nice. The volunteers said they were really impressed by the quality of the articles and they thought the interviewing was very professional. There's a whole human side to volunteerism as well. They have lives outside the hospital, and the students got to appreciate that."

Lalonde says she was impressed by the first drafts of the articles. "I thought they were really like something from a mainstream newspaper."

Journalism graduate student Anne-Michèle Fortmann, who worked on a pamphlet for the Montreal Children's Hospital.

Journalism pamphlet


Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.