BRISTOL, R.I. – Facing an unpredictable and rapidly shifting media environment, journalism students are continuously challenged to keep apace of the latest trends and outlets for storytelling. At Roger Williams University, students are navigating the digital landscape, recently launching “Under the Bridge” – an independent, student-run digital magazine that provides ample opportunity for emerging journalists to test their skills as field reporters and uncover untold stories across Rhode Island.
The brainchild of Assistant Professor of Communication Paola Prado, “Under The Bridge” was developed as a capstone project for last fall’s digital journalism course. The class operated in a newsroom setting and conducted editorial sessions to assign topics and develop a production schedule. Prado served as the news director, providing guidance and editorial advice, and gave the final approval for all content. With its first iteration published last month, “Under the Bridge” will continue to be updated during the spring semester. Prado says she hopes that the students will take the publication to the next level – “entirely owning it, and running it as a student publication that will allow them to put into practice all that they are learning in the journalism major.”
For some students, complementary skills were also put to test. Senior journalism and graphic design double major Olivia Lyons pulled double duty, serving as lead web designer along with reporting on the local food movement in Rhode Island.
Many of the student journalists encountered the practical challenges of field reporting that they can expect to face in their professional endeavors, Lyons explained. While reporting on the local food movement – an initiative that promotes consuming locally farmed foods as opposed to industrially produced foods – Lyons struggled to secure expert sources to comment on the health benefits to the locavore lifestyle. After falling short with five different nutritionists, a chance encounter with a local farmer led to an impromptu interview – and required some quick thinking on Lyons’ part, as she developed her line of questioning on the fly. The experience taught her the importance of being adaptable – a key skill for journalists, she says.
“I think that I learned to just be a better journalist,” Lyons says. “I learned to put myself out there more; I was thrown out of my comfort zone.”
Lyons’ finished story, “Bon Appetit Promotes Local Food at RWU” lives in the “Under the Fork” category of the publication – a section devoted to culinary issues and where to dine in the Ocean State. Other news categories, from “Undergrad” to “Under the Sea,” focus on topics including the environment, social justice and issues affecting college students. Recent stories include a report on the threat of increasing invasive species in Narragansett Bay to the state’s fishing economy and a news item on the controversial Sakonnet River Bridge toll.
To learn more about “Under the Bridge,” and to meet the team behind the scenes, visit “Underneath.” Recruitment is underway for additional contributors – journalism students are encouraged to contact Olivia Lyons for more information or to get involved.