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Alternate Writing Sample for Applicants without a Background in Journalism

Many of our best students in the journalism graduate program at DePaul do not have an undergraduate background in journalism. If that’s true of you, could you take a few minutes to show us how you might tackle this story?

Please write seven sentences showing how you would report this story. No sentence should be more than 25 words long. This will serve as your writing sample.

Remember that when writing their stories journalists start with the most recent, relevant part of the story. The information they report is learned from a trustworthy source.

This story begins in the early morning. You are commuting on a bypass south of Rockford, Illinois on your way to work. It’s late winter and a freezing rain is falling. It’s a quarter past six in the morning. There’s a major traffic tie up as you travel westbound on US Highway 20. You pull over to the shoulder of the road and walk in the direction of a bridge over the Rock River where you see a series of emergency lights flashing. You then see a tow truck. Its long crane has a hook fastened under the rear bumper of a late model sports car. The car has been lifted out of the water and is pointed headlights down. On the driver’s side of the car you peer through a half-opened window and see the body of a woman still seated behind the steering wheel.

A sheriff deputy at the scene tells you, “Police received a call around two this morning from a motorist who reported that a car going westbound on U.S. Highway 20 at a high rate of speed had swerved off the roadway, plunged down an embankment and crashed into the Rock River.”

The witness is at the accident site. He tells you “I saw out of my rear view mirror a car approaching at a dangerous speed. It was swerving all over the roadway. I slowed down and pulled to the side of the road for fear I’d be hit. The car sped past, cut diagonally in front of me, and plunged into the river.”

The motorist called 911. The car was completely submerged by the time first responders arrived.

You begin work on the story when you get to the office. You will be filing your story for a noon news block. By mid-morning you contact the county coroner. He tells you next of kin have been notified and the dead woman as 31-year-old Rockford woman Jody Davis. She lives at 1321 Alpine Drive in Rockford, Illinois.

You ask, “What was the cause of death?” The coroner confirms it was drowning. You tell the coroner what you saw at the scene, and he tells you the force of the impact appears to have trapped the victim’s legs under the dashboard, blocking her escape.

You ask whether Davis was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash and are told the preliminary toxicology report will come back later that morning. The coroner confirms Davis was married and the mother of three children. An employee identification card in the victim’s personal effects confirms that she worked at Sundstrand Corporation, a major aeronautical employer in the Rockford area.

You go the victim’s residence. The woman who answers the door, identifies herself as Dee Fondy, and claims to be the victim’s “best friend.” She is watching the children, until their grandmother arrives. You ask Fondy when she had last seen Davis. The woman gets upset, and says, it was “around midnight. We went out for a couple of drinks.” You ask whether Davis seemed distressed. Fondy interrupts, “She was very depressed! She’s had a very difficult marriage. It’s a tragedy!”

Before you file your story just before noon, the coroner’s office confirms Davis was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash.

If you have any questions regarding this alternate writing sample option, please contact the Office of Graduate Admission by emailing​ or calling (773) 325-4405.