Howard University Media Lab Gives Journalism Students Real-World Experience

Hazel Edney (left ) and Artelia Covington working in the Converged Media Lab at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Click image for high-res version.

WASHINGTON D.C., June 23, 2003 — Journalism major Makebra Anderson is only a junior at Howard University, but already she’s working in a state-of-the-art newsroom alongside award-winning professional journalists. Best of all, she gets to work with them right on the campus of one of the most distinguished of America’s historically black universities.

Since January, Anderson and more than 100 other Howard journalism students have been working with professional journalists in the Converged Media Lab. Supported by a partnership of Howard’s Department of Journalism, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and Microsoft, the lab provides students a chance to use cutting-edge technology as they learn to research, write and publish news stories.

Reporters and editors working in Washington, D.C. for the NNPA’s electronic news wire service,, also use the lab to work and file stories to over 200 African-American newspapers nationwide. This gives students an unusual opportunity to work alongside — and learn from — professional journalists while still in college.

“We wanted students to have an opportunity to work with professional journalists, particularly those that work for the black media,” says George Curry, who works from the lab as editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. “The Media Lab gets the students out of textbooks and into the newsroom to learn about the standards of a newspaper or magazine.”

Curry, who was recently named Journalist of the Year by the National Association of Black Journalists, has for the past 25 years worked with high school and college students to help establish the next generation of journalist, sees the Media Lab as a great opportunity for aspiring black journalists to develop their craft.

Journalism student Makebra Anderson and Professor Clint Wilson in Howard University’s Converged Media Lab. Click image for high-res version.

“I grew up during segregation, and never knew a black reporter,” says Curry. “My first job out of college was at Sports Illustrated in 1970. I could get a job at the largest sports magazine in the world, but not at my hometown newspaper.”

Microsoft provided software and more than US$70,000 in cash for hardware, technical assistance and furniture to support the Converged Media Lab. The multimedia facility, a refurbished classroom modeled after open newsrooms, contains two broadcast monitors, 12 computer workstations, as well as printers, scanners and digital graphic design equipment.

“We’re excited to see already how the students are benefiting from the Converged Media Lab,” says Bruce Brooks, director of Community Affairs at Microsoft. “Students get to learn and use the latest technology to produce online, print and broadcast news, and also have the opportunity to work with the NNPA reporters and editors to gain real-world experience that will help them become better journalists, and reach their professional goals.”

As the Web site editor, Anderson manages 14 journalism students who write for Each student has his or her own beat to cover, and also contributes at least two editorials during the semester. Some stories written by students for the Howard newspaper and news site are released to the NNPA News Service, giving students invaluable clips of bylined stories that are circulated to more than 15 million readers.

“Last year, none of the computers we had worked very well,” says Anderson, who is the managing editor of Howard’s online news site, “Because of this we’re able to make the site much more interesting.”

Anderson says the lab has given her and other Howard journalism students a unique opportunity to learn about journalism in a real-world environment. “We’re one of the only HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) that has a program like this. Slowly but surely other schools are implementing centers like this, but thanks to Microsoft and NNPA, we’re one of the first.”

As a result of working in the lab, Anderson was able to secure a summer internship with the NNPA journalists. “Because I have experience writing for the internet and working on stories, George Curry thought it’d be a perfect fit,” says Anderson.

Once she graduates, Anderson wants to work for a magazine. She says her professors encouraged her to get experience writing and editing for the Web and learning the technology used to publish Web and print content, and working in the lab has helped give her that experience.

“I like comparing writing for the web to writing for a lifestyle section of a newspaper or magazine,” says Anderson. “It’s more fun and jazzy. You have to keep paragraphs short and, the stories aren’t long stories to prevent scrolling.”

Curry says that about 100 journalism students have used the lab since it opened in January, and to date the new program is going well. Next year, Curry hopes, summer internship possibilities can be created for more students and more can be done to coordinate between the lab and the students’ class work.

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