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Being part of "The 12" at The Washington Post

By Tessa Fox, communication junior

Journalism student Tessa Fox found herself tumbling through the 2012 election as one of 12 college students selected by The Washington Post to provide a young voice to their campaign coverage.

I will remember Nov. 6, 2012, for the rest of my life. I voted for the president of the United States for the first time in my life, saw monumental "firsts" be elected across the country and stayed up way past my bedtime doing what I love: journalism.  

And I wasn’t just doing journalism; I was doing it for one of the top three newspapers in North America.

It all started last semester when journalism professional-in-residence Herbert Lowe asked me if I wanted to work on a summer project with The Washington Post. (Inside I was screaming, “yes.”) I didn’t even know what the project was about, but I knew I was interested. (Who wouldn’t be?)

And, so began my work on “The 12” — an online editorial board composed of 12 college students from swing states across the country. Together we were tasked with providing a young voice to the 2012 election cycle through original content and aggregating coverage from local and national news sources.

There was not a lot of instruction about how or what we should cover. After my first post, I recall thinking, “Am I doing this right?” I think we all felt this way. But after reading what the others were posting, I became more comfortable and confident in what I was posting.

As the Wisconsin representative, I covered the historic Scott Walker recall election, the race for Sen. Herb Kohl’s U.S. Senate seat and the re-election of President Barack Obama. Perhaps my favorite post was about the catastrophe between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks earlier this season because it tied together two important topics at the time: the election and the NFL replacement refs.

But this experience was much more than a chance to put The Washington Post on my résumé. It gave me peace of mind to know that the hard work I'm investing in my education is paying off.

In the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, journalism students are taught the importance of social media and online journalism. But sometimes there seems to be a bit of resistance from students, myself included.

However, through “The 12,” I witnessed firsthand that the things I’m learning in the classroom are being used every day in newsrooms. From tweeting links to your stories or soliciting responses from your followers, the Internet and social media are more important to journalism than ever before.

The project used the blogging website Tumblr to compile and promote our coverage. This was one of the first times I saw Tumblr being used for journalistic purposes, and I couldn’t be happier with the response. The site is normally used to re-blog amusing photos or GIFs, but we were able to use it in an innovative way that really appealed to young people consuming the content and the college students like ourselves who produced it.

I learned a lot from this experience. I improved numerous skills necessary to be a successful journalist, such as developing my experience with multimedia, crowd sourcing and online journalism. But I think the most important piece of knowledge I took away from this opportunity was something I already knew: Journalism is changing, and it always will be.


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