In late September, two editors from our student-produced newspaper The DePaulia
traveled to the nation's capitol to cover Pope Francis’ visit to the United States. For Megan Deppen and Brenden Moore, this was an opportunity to gain on-the-ground exposure to the world of professional journalism. Deppen and Moore even traveled with the press core and live-blogged their experience as official press during their stay.
The blog offered an inside look into journalistic activities like attending news conferences and interviewing locals about the event. Deppen and Moore also used the blog to post less-formal parts of the trip, which helped translate the feel of both D.C. and the journalistic experience to DePaulia
Their professional networks also got a boost from the trip. On the press bus, Moore met a reporter whose work he has followed for years, Mary Ann Ahern of Chicago NBC5
Moore stated that DePaul’s Journalism faculty
— especially those who have worked as professional journalists—best prepared him to be a more successful journalist in changing media landscapes. And Deppen and Moore agree that utilizing social media like Snapchat and Instagram were as crucial to their coverage as their print articles.
The young reporters learned that news stories can come from unexpected places. One day after leaving mass with the pope, Moore saw a large group of people in the distance and, upon arriving to the crowd, found a large pro-environment group gathered to support the pope’s environmental initiatives. “And we got a story just from that,” said Moore. Deppen, on the other hand, got a firsthand glimpse at reporters’ hectic schedules. “To get a story covered, and covered well,” she said, “you will work past your bedtime and get up long before you want to.”
The event produced at least two more stories for The DePaulia
. First, Deppen visited Jackie Posek at DePaul University's Catholic Campus Ministry to get a feel for how the pope would be received by Catholics in the United States. A second story from the trip checked in with a few families in D.C. Deppen met one couple whose children sent them to D.C. as a gift, because they knew this might be the only chance for their parents to see the pope. Other tourists arrived without realizing the pope would be in D.C., and were happily surprised about his visit.
“Saying, ‘Hi, I’m a reporter from Chicago, can I ask you a couple questions?’ had a nice ring to it,” reflected Deppen after returning. “By the end of the trip, I’d learned a lot and I felt like a professional. It was overwhelming and exhausting, but we were rewarded by the congratulations from our staff, the university, and other journalists back home.”