Former CNN Anchor, Alumna Initiates Collaborative Reporting Project Between Kent State, Partner Universities
From the South to the Midwest, climate change has affected the United States in various ways, with partisan politics and social media increasing its awareness to new levels. During the summer of 2021, student journalists from Kent State joined peers from three different regions of the U.S. to report on this issue.
They did this through Project Citizen, a collaborative project organized by Kent State alumna and former CNN anchor Carol Costello. Project Citizen first launched in 2019 and started with two colleges, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles and Kent State. Since then, two more colleges have been added to the project: Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Costello, now a lecturer on Broadcast Journalism at Loyola Marymount, said this program provides students with an outlet to network and collaborate with other students across the country while they report on major news topics. Costello hopes this project can act as a springboard for more colleges to join this effort, and to create a larger news outlet with student journalists from across the country.
“My dream of dreams would be to create a network of students who could cover what happens in the world,” Costello said, “whatever that might be from a younger perspective, and become so well respected, that media organizations ... would look to that site to pick the brains of young America.”
While Project Citizen’s 2019 project gave students the chance to travel and visit each others’ colleges to network, the summer 2021 program was held exclusively online to avoid complications with the coronavirus pandemic. The students chose to report on climate change, and created a website called Climate360 to publish their content.
Senior Communication Studies major Spencer Hayes worked as an executive producer for the team, and helped to publish climate change articles that covered topics such as algae blooms in both Lake Erie and Baton Rouge. As a communication studies major, writing in a journalistic style was new to Hayes, but the program helped her improve on these skills throughout the summer.
“I think the biggest thing I got from this (program) was when you're looking for internships, don't let your major define what you can do,” Hayes said. “I’m a communication studies major, (and) this is a journalism project and I was still able to do it, so if you're interested in something, go for it.”
Director of Student Media Kevin Dilley said he was impressed with the students’ ability to organize a newsroom comprising four colleges spread throughout the country in two months.
“When you ask students, particularly, to do things during a semester in which they are already taking a full load of classes, they're already involved in other projects, they're already maybe in the middle of jobs and you throw in a pandemic ... that's what I think is impressive, (is) that they carved out the time, (and) I refer to our students in the student media as emerging professionals,” he said.