Hard News in the Big Easy

For several years, Journalism and Television and Digital Media students have spent their spring breaks or summer vacations gaining the ultimate hands-on experience in news gathering while working under challenging conditions. Aside from the logistical difficulties of parachuting into a faraway city to report on important issues, students from the School of Communication and Media often have to overcome other hurdles while getting their stories.

This year, while reporting on climate change and racial injustice in New Orleans, the Montclair student journalists faced the toughest challenges yet – from dealing with COVID-19 to broken equipment and a towed rental van. And, despite that, they had to figure out how to get the job done. Just like professionals do.

“I’ve done a lot of trips with students; this was one of the hardest ones,” says Instructor Steve McCarthy, the news producer for the School of Communication and Media who is also a network TV news veteran and Emmy® Award-winning producer.

The end result was a half-hour Montclair News Lab special titled “New Orleans | The Raging Storms” on hawkplus.tv that received recognition from partner NBCU Academy, a journalism training program for professional and future journalists.

Steve McCarthy and group of students smiling for camera in New Orleans

Student journalist Michelle Coneo Fernandez says that not only did the trip provide all the students good stories, it gave them new perspectives. “This no longer seemed just a school project; we saw New Orleans’ reality,” Fernandez wrote in an NBCU essay. “We were professionals in the field, and for the most part, we came back different individuals.”