Students participating in the Northwest Community College Initiative program, an exchange program funded by the US Department of State, often have the opportunity to visit local businesses and organizations related to their fields of study. Jessica Storrer, a media student from Brazil studying at Pierce College, recently had the chance to visit the Tacoma News Tribune. Here she shares her experience:
It’s 3pm, a bell rings. Within a few minutes, several journalists get together for a brainstorm meeting. That was one of the best moments that we, NWCCI students attending Pierce College, had the pleasure to witness in our visit to the Tacoma News Tribune on January 14th. Professional journalists helped us get to know the inside workings of an American newspaper. Our experience visiting the Tacoma News Tribune was very interesting and informative. We got to learn a lot about American journalism and the newspaper profession.
With strong sports coverage, a remarkable photography staff and excellence in local breaking news, the Tacoma News Tribune is currently the second largest newspaper in Washington state. The News Tribune belongs to a notable group of business partners, such as The Olympian, The Peninsula Gateway, The Puyallup Herald, Northwest Guardian, Kiro TV and Newspapers in Education.
When we first arrived at the Tacoma News Tribune visitor entrance, we were already happy to see how organized the building was. Pictures from the newspaper’s background and history adorned the walls of the waiting room. A couple of short minutes later, we were received by the Crime and Breaking News team leader Randy McCarthy. With a fast-paced voice and a professional look, he took us to a conference room and was willing to answer each and every question that we could have about newspaper related subjects. By his side was the young Alexis Krell, also part of the Crime and Breaking News team. Both of them were really attentive and willing to help us understand what it’s like to be part of an American newspaper group.
To our surprise, at bell rang at 3pm. That was the signal to the journalists to head to the central table where they would decide which news they would include in the next day’s newspaper. We had the opportunity to join them in this brainstorming meeting and it was really interesting to see how they organize the subjects and especially how and why they pick particular stories.
One of the subjects in the list that called my attention it was about an artist called Gerry Sperry, who bought a wooden box at Goodwill and found a bag of ashes inside it. When we were there, no one knew what the ashes were or how they would find its owner. That was curious, at least, and the editorial staff decided to publish the story in the newspaper on January 15th. Through the story, they actually found the owner. Kim Johnson, a Parkland resident, lost her wooden box in a robbery about a year ago and she had been looking for it since then. We all wondered what the ashes were, and it turned out that Johnson used to have a rottweiler dog, Onyx, that passed away. She kept the ashes as a memory of her pet. According to Sperry, “it obviously was emotional for her, and I’m glad the story has a happy ending.” It was amazing to see how a short and unusual history can have such a good effect in a person’s life.
After the brainstorming session, McCarthy took us on a tour around the rest of the building, passing by many journalists’ desks, database screens, panels and finally getting to the printing room. Giant paper rolls, industrial printers, heavy machinery and piles of newspapers were everywhere. Some of us felt like kids in a toy store, wanting to touch and play with everything. The whole process of transforming individual stories into an entire informative publication is so involved!
The visit was a complete success. At the end, we were able to have McCarthy’s business cards and the invitation to come back in the future – some of us only to visit, but maybe for others a different purpose (many of us are media students!). Journalism has a huge influence on people’s lives. The professionals involved in transmitting the news have the responsibility to be truthful and direct. Journalism is an art that us, as an audience should learn to appreciate. As British playwright Tom Stoppard once said, “I still believe that if your aim is to change the world, journalism is a more immediate short-term weapon.”
Photos by Jessica Storrer, Salman Ottamaliyekkal and Ishtiaq Aftab.