J-Student Spotlight: Hailey Branson, Univ. of Oklahoma, UWIRE 100

Hailey Branson is afraid of microwaves.  She plays paintball, the piano, and the marimba.  And she also oozes reporting talent and a passion for journalism that borders on life affirming.

As a former j-student colleague gushes: “In an age of constant technological advances and increased cynicism, you would be hard pressed to find someone who believes in the value of the written word, the importance of being unbiased when reporting the news, and loves the smell of a newspaper as much as Ms. Branson. . . . Branson has made me believe in journalism again.  As corny as that might sound, it is true.  Talking with her, I have seen what an honest person with a commitment to telling the truth can do.”

Branson’s collegiate journalism career is as varied and impressive as any I have ever come across.  The 21-year-old rising senior at the University of Oklahoma has served as a reporter, opinion editor, and assistant managing editor for The Oklahoma Daily. Last semester, she pulled double duty in Washington D.C. as a Daily correspondent and an intern for The Houston Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers.  She’s reported on all-things-Oklahoma for a few smaller pubs.  And at this moment, she is in Manhattan, interning at the New York Times, more than 1,400 miles and a world away from her hometown of Perry, Oklahoma, which she describes ironically as a “sprawling metropolis” (population: 5,000).

For her all-around j-amazingness, Branson rightfully earned a spot in the latest UWIRE 100 listing, a selection of college media’s most productive, innovative, and elite.  Below, she happily dons a ‘stache and gives a thumbs up to her inclusion in the CMM Student Journalist Spotlight.

Hailey Branson

Hailey Branson2

Hailey Branson's reporting style has many facets, and faces.

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

I guess it could be weirder.

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

I went to dinner with Helen Thomas- the Helen Thomas- this past semester.  She told me that to be successful in this job you have to learn something new every day and you always have to tell people the truth, even when it’s something they need to hear more than they want to hear.

Memorable behind-the-scenes moment.

I’ll never forget doing a story for The Oklahoma Daily about identity theft.  My source had her debit card number stolen- and used to buy foreign porn.  I was walking across campus when I called her and ended up having to leave a voicemail message that made my face go beet red: “Hi, Katie.  This is Hailey Branson with the OU Daily. I need to  talk to you . . . about your porn.”   It was good preparation for my summer internship, which ended with me having to do a story about bestiality.

What first sparked your passion for journalism?

I have always been kind of a stalker.  As a child, I used to watch my neighbors from my bedroom window and write conspiracy theories about them in my diary.  When I found out I could get paid to keep tabs on people, I thought it was too good to be true.  I knew I was hooked on journalism when I got my first byline in the local newspaper at the age of 15, and my first job as a laborer on the old manual press that still required wax-up layout.

What are your predictions for the future of college journalism?

College journalism is in a period of change right now, just as professional journalism is.  But it certainly is not dying.  Students want more news now than ever before and, with the constant news cycle created by online news, college journalists will become more and more important to campuses and communities.

College journalism will likely be focused more and more on multimedia projects that involve text (both online and in hard copy), photos, video, and podcasts.  Full package stories will be much more common, as opposed to print-only stories.  This will provide excellent opportunities for students with different journalism interests to work together, learn specialized skills from each other, and make all team members competitive in an increasingly cutthroat industry.

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

Why are so many people spending more time complaining about changes in journalism than learning new skills that will make them competitive?

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

I am in bed, wondering why I had another nightmare about clowns.  I live in New York City and have a job as an in-depth reporter for the New York Times.  I keep a popular blog, do regular online video work, and have a few awards and a cat named Mrs. Parks.

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