J-Student Spotlight: Rachael Dickson, George Mason U., UWIRE 100

Rachael Dickson is an award-winning, professionally-trained harpist.  Over the years, she has even played “rock harp” in a few bars, which immediately makes her cooler than you.  The  rising senior at George Mason University is also a self-described “21-year-old reporter kicking it new-school online with thoughts, musings, articles, videos, and photos.” 

Her online awesomeness extended this past year to Connect2Mason, a student-run online outlet that breaks down all-things GMU through a smorgasbord of Journalism 3.0 styles and tools.  According to one projo/admirer, Dickson’s writing for the site, and during separate internships, “excell[s] in everything from short deadline, event based reporting to multimedia features, and from movie reviews to political profiles.”

For her reporting wunderkind status, the rock harpist and history major (with minors in, you guessed it, electronic journalism and music) recently earned a place on the UWIRE 100, a listing of the best of the best of college media worldwide.  Today, the Dallas native also takes her rightful place in the CMM Student Journalist Spotlight.

Rachael Dickson, Connect2Mason.com writer at George Mason University.

Rachael Dickson, writer, Connect2Mason.com

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

Bring it on; Perseverance pays off.

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

I read in a book that you should always carry a pencil with you in case it rains.  Sure enough, when it rained like crazy at an Obama/Biden rally about a month later, I was still able to take notes.  It was a bit more difficult taking pictures through a plastic bag though. . .

Memorable behind-the-scenes production moment.

I just recently participated in a fun photo shoot where I pretended to interview these two flamingos named Splosh and Pecks (for Victoria “Posh” and David “Becks” Beckham).  I had to climb out to a center island in their little creek, throw food to them, and make weird clucking sounds so they would look my way.  It was pretty amusing.

What first sparked your passion for journalism?

Really out of curiosity, I took a journalism class at my high school.  My very first story looked at the dispute between the marching band and the neighbors across the street who kept calling the cops on them.  I went door to door talking to neighbors about how they felt.  The story ended up getting published on the front page of the high school newspaper.  From that day, I was hooked.

What are your predictions for the future of college journalism?

I believe college journalism will continue in one form or another for the next couple of decades at least.  We’re in the midst of the information age.  There’s always going to be a demand for localized news on student campuses.  I personally believe the printed newspaper will exist for a while longer on college campuses, where it can be easier to pick up a paper than reach a computer sometimes.  However, I think the demand for new multimedia will push student media organizations to innovate and develop new, exciting ways of conveying information to their readers.

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

While it is important to get news out there very quickly, especially in this Internet-based time, I think a lot of times reporters work so hard to snap out stories that they forget to really check that their stories are accurate and as unbiased as possible.  Incidents such as these have destroyed the reputations of journalists once it came out that they hadn’t done their legwork in checking the claims.  It’s really important to just step back for a second, take a breath, and ask yourself before publishing something: Am I sure this story is accurate?  Have I talked to all the relevant people to this story?  It sounds like such a little thing, but it’s huge.

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

In ten years, I hope to wake up somewhere in Asia or Africa, reporting from abroad and writing a book on free speech and media issues in that location.  (I plan to study First Amendment and media law between now and then.)

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