Betts: We need to have a conversation about how unappreciated multimedia journalism is at Medill

Elisabeth Betts, Op-Ed Contributor

My mother’s insatiable news appetite is quite possibly the sole reason I am at this school. As an only child, I did not have a sibling to keep me company, so she became my constant companion. When I woke up in the morning, I would go to my parents’ room, where the news was always on. At 6 a.m., my mother would be watching “Morning Joe,” and around 10 p.m., she would end her day with “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.” Though I’ve wanted to be a broadcast journalist all my life, it never occurred to me to major in journalism, let alone go to the best journalism school in the world, until my junior year in high school.

When I first realized I wanted to major in journalism, I knew I had to attend the best journalism school. As such, I set my sights on Medill, and Medill took a chance on me on December 13, 2019. 

When I came to Medill, I wanted to try everything under the umbrella of broadcast journalism.”Before the school year even started, I expressed my interest in the field and connected with the news director of Northwestern News Network. Seeing Medill greats like Sheinelle Jones and Omar Jimenez, and being inspired by professors like Ava Thompson Greenwell, I wanted to hit the ground running.

Though Medill has had individuals go into the broadcasting field and succeed, and even be honored by Medill, there seems to be a lack of appreciation for those wanting to enter the field. After my first quarter at Northwestern, I would see students share The Daily Northwestern’s work, and commend or condemn a student reporter for their story in the paper, but I didn’t see this same appreciation and buzz for multimedia publications on campus. I would see my peers in NNN putting in so much work for such little recognition —  it seemed as though people just didn’t care about the work we did.

Winter quarter, I decided to try something new. I started my own food segment, called “Betts Bites,” to see if that would entice students to watch NNN. Though it seemed effective, I would get praise for “Betts Bites,” but people wouldn’t stay to watch the whole show. The Daily Northwestern still stood as the only publication students cared about — including journalism students. All of the wonderful work happening on this campus that is not print, goes forgotten.

In her “Paywall, Please!” article, columnist Alex Perry reinforces the general consensus that seems to be happening: if it isn’t work from The Daily, it’s forgotten about or ignored. Perry writes that The Daily is “in a market with little competition,” and refers to the student publication as “leading” and “dominant,” all of which reinforces the point that work coming from publications like NNN and WNUR is not recognized. 

Speaking from the perspective of someone who works for NNN as an assistant producer, anchor and reporter, we receive limited support. Beyond having a faculty adviser, who shares our work with other professors who choose to watch, and receiving advice from professors, we are not supported as budding broadcast journalists. For the entirety of my freshman fall, I used a free video editing software known as DaVinci Resolve 16, because I assumed Medill would provide Adobe Premiere Pro — an industry standard software — in the future. What I thought was a COVID-19 budgeting issue turned out to just be the way things are. Budding broadcast journalists have never been provided access to Premiere through the school; the cost of the software comes out of our pocket.

Issues like these undoubtedly contribute to the lack of enthusiasm about multimedia journalism in Medill and throughout the Northwestern community. To change this narrative, this is my plea: I want students to consider actively supporting — or at least openly discussing —  the work of their multimedia journalist friends just as much as they do print.

Elisabeth Betts is a Medill sophomore. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @esbetts

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Perry: Paywall, please!