Student Journalist Spotlight: Meredith Shiner, Duke Univ., UWIRE 100

Meredith Shiner is an über-sports-hound and Chi-town gal at heart.  In her words, “As an unapologetic White Sox fan who grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, my high school superlative was, ‘Most Likely to Start a Brawl at a Cubs/Sox Game.'”

As a sports reporter, columnist, and editor at The Chronicle at Duke University, Shiner traded Chicago for Krzyzewskiville, Cameron Indoor, and Wallace Wade, covering every Blue Devil who could run, throw, and jump over the past four years and making a few standout memories along the way- “[f]rom a buzzer-beater in Cameron my sophomore year to exchanging e-mails with Reggie Love, getting a voicemail from Steve Spurrier and challenging Brian Zoubek to a game of Pop-A-Shot this year.”

For her Pop-A-Shot prowess and all-star sports journalism, Shiner, 22, recently earned a much-deserved spot in the esteemed UWIRE 100, a listing of the absolute best of the best within collegemediatopia over the past year.  As one of her biggest fans, a Duke j-prof., wrote breathlessly about her: “What distinguishes Meredith from many other student journalists, especially those who concentrate in sports, is that she is a news omnivore.  In class, it was clear she reads and digests everything, from foreign news to election campaigns to features.  She inhales journalism, in other words, and has a natural instinct for news.” 

For the latest edition of the CMM Student Journalist Spotlight, the world’s first “news omnivore” (quite possibly the coolest j-nickname EVER) reflects back on life as a j-student extraordinaire, now that she is “old, cynical and graduating.”

Meredith Shiner

Duke's Meredith Shiner playfully poses in the enemy's lair, the Dean Dome at UNC, before a Duke-UNC battle this past March.

Write a six-word memoir of your student journalism experience.

Live for the deadline, sleep later.

What is the best piece of journalism advice you’ve ever received or given?

When I was first elected sports editor of The Chronicle as a sophomore, I was excited to the point of being effusive about the job and the year ahead of me.  I’ll never forget that night when a top editor pulled me aside in the office and said, “If you like this job four days out of every five, you’ll be OK.”  I think that advice holds true not just for journalism, but also for whatever you do in college and beyond.  The most rewarding experiences are often the most challenging.  There are days when you’ll hate what you’re doing, particularly when you’re working 70 hours per week at a student paper and your friends are out being regular college students.  But on the whole, I wouldn’t trade my time at The Chronicle for anything in the world, and the tough days were just the small price I paid for all the great ones.

Memorable behind-the-scenes production moment.

Sitting center court press row of Cameron Indoor Stadium for a Duke/UNC game has to be up there.  I was also a freshman when the Duke Lacrosse case broke.  Being in the newsroom as a major national news story grew into a media firestorm is something I hated as a student but learned immensely from as a journalist.  As the case evolved, I became more and more involved at The Chronicle, and to this day I still admire all the student journalists who handled the situation with such grace and skill.  In terms of funny, I guess I would have to say any press conference I’ve ever been in with men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski.  He always refers to me by name when I ask a question and usually he’ll throw in a sarcastic line poking fun at me before he continues with his response.  I think it’s a sign of his respect for me, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself for three years.

What first sparked your passion for journalism?

I honestly think it was something I was born with.  I can’t describe it any other way.  I’ve been watching “Meet the Press” since I was in elementary school and have been reading at least one newspaper a day for about as long (although today, my news diet has grown to be borderline embarrassing/obsessive).  I was the editor of my high school paper and knew coming to Duke that getting involved with our newspaper here was something I really wanted to do.

What are your predictions for the future of college journalism?

On the business end of college journalism, I think we’ll begin to see a lot more campus newspapers move to create independent endowments to supplement their day-to-day advertising revenue.  For example, I interviewed the editor in chief of The Harvard Crimson for a story I worked on this fall about the future of college journalism, and he said that 15 to 20 percent of the paper’s revenue comes from donations.  As revenues continue decline at papers across the country (although, admittedly not nearly at as severe of a rate as their professional counterparts), the endowment movement will gain traction.

On the content side, I think the opportunities for young people to get involved in journalism have never been greater or more exciting.  As we keep growing in the Internet age, computer science majors and design majors and film studies concentrators will find seats in college newsrooms next to your typical English and communications students.  College newspaper Web sites are great platforms to be creative and inventive in how we present the news.  As they expand, I think readership for college publications will widen as more people nationwide will be able access the quality content college journalists have been producing on campus for decades, just in more appealing and reader-friendly ways.

What is one question we should all be asking much more often about the current state or future of journalism?

I think newsroom diversity is a huge issue that tends to get overlooked because of all the doomsday-type questions surrounding the profession.  Because the current business model for journalism is broken and completely out-of-date, you see a lot of talented college journalists shying away from the profession— and some out of necessity.  Many of the friends I have from college who went on to pursue careers in the field were working entry-level jobs that, if they paid anything at all, did not pay nearly enough to cover the cost of living.  What this translates to, in practice, is that many of the kids who are starting out in journalism today are from middle-to-upperclass families and can afford to chase their dreams for a few years while they’re finding their way.  I’m not saying these kids aren’t talented— many of them are— but I think the reality of the business is creating a more homogenized newsroom, and a newsroom is place that thrives most from a wide range of voices that come from different places, backgrounds, and experiences.

You wake up in ten years. Where are you and what are you doing?

Gosh, part of me wishes I knew the answer to that question.  The other part of me, however, is excited that I don’t.  I feel as if there are a million opportunities out there.  I’m just hoping to latch onto a good one at some point.  One of my friends asked me the other night over dinner what my goal in life was.  I told her, “To never be bored.”  So we’ll see where that takes me.

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  1. […] me for his website’s student journalist spotlights. You can read the full interview here. I had a lot of fun answering Dan’s questions (he was way too flattering in his introduction […]