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Thanks for a GREAT year at UVM Student Media

May 22, 2018

With hundreds of students spread across three amazing student media organizations, this year in WRUV-FM, UVMtv and The Vermont Cynic has been straight-up fantastic.

Thanks for all of that you do. Have a great summer.

And we’ll see you in August!

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The Vermont Cynic documents historic UVM protests

February 24, 2018
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Black Student Union President Harmony Edosomwan, a sophomore sits in the middle of Main Street in Burlington during this week’s protest. Edosomwan and others have been calling for the removal of top University of Vermont officials for what she calls failure to act against racism on campus.
Photo by Oliver Pomazi, The Vermont Cynic

When a group of University of Vermont students protested this week against the administration for what the students called a failure to act against racist acts and institutional practices—a week in which a UVM staff member also staged a public hunger strike over the same issues—The Vermont Cynic staff launched a multimedia effort on VtCynic.com to capture the moment.

This collegiate journalism rivaled some of the best that The Vermont Cynic has ever produced. This page contains just a few of the moments captured by the staff of Cynic Editor-in-Chief Erika Lewy and Managing Editor Greta Bjornson.

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NoNames4Justice, an UVM social justice group, staged rallies in Waterman, the main UVM administration building, more than once during the week. The first of the rallies occurred on Feb. 20 in support of John Mejia, a UVM staff member who staged a hunger strike to protest racial injustice. Photo by Alek Fleury, photo editor of The Vermont Cynic

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UVM Vice Provost Annie Stevens, right, listens to student protesters, who have called for her to resign.

UVM media in the spotlight

November 27, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 8.13.14 AMFor the second time in just as many weeks, the University of Vermont’s communications office has devoted some virtual ink to UVM student media. We appreciate the shout-out!

You can read the latest story here.

Vermont Quarterly spotlights Cynic grad

November 13, 2017

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UVM’S Vermont Quarterly magazine has published a brief feature on 2010 Vermont Cynic editor-in-chief (and 2011 UVM grad) Natalie DiBlasio. Read the full article here.

A free student press returns to Vermont

May 26, 2017
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Gov. Phil Scott took part in a ceremonial bill-signing with aspiring writers and journalists from Vermont’s public schools. The new law protects students in the state’s public schools and colleges from censorship by school officials.

A truly free student press returned to Vermont public schools this week.

Gov. Phil Scott signed an education bill that will prevent principals, superintendents and other school officials from censoring school newspapers for trivial reasons.

Up till now, school officials could prevent student journalists from writing about anything that they deemed inappropriate. School officials have used this power to prevent publication of stories about everything from teen pregnancy to acts of racism.

Now, Vermont stands as the 11th state to enact a New Voices law, aimed to empower students to use their voices as journalists.

Students still face more restraints than professional journalists—stories that would substantially disrupt a school environment are still off limits—but now students can write stories about controversial topics without worrying about them being censored merely because the story are controversial.

Scott met with several aspiring journalists Thursday in Burlington for a ceremonial signing of the law.

Alexandre Silberman, one of two co-editors of the Burlington High School newspaper, The Register, said he appreciates the steps that lawmakers took this year to protect student journalists.

“I’m so glad to be graduating high school knowing that the student journalists who follow in my footsteps will have an environment free of censorship and prior review,” Silberman said. “This New Voices law affirms the importance of a free student press and will effectively protect it.”

Vermont Sen. Jeanette White, a Windham County Democrat, sponsored the bill that grew into the New Voices law.

White and Nancy Olson, director of Vermont’s branch of the Journalism Education Association, had worked to introduce this kind of bill in previous years. This time, she worked with the Student Press Law Center and the national New Voices campaign.

You can read more about the new law at SPLC.org.

How a Vermont Cynic grad landed at The Washington Post before her 23rd birthday

May 18, 2017

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Former Vermont Cynic layout editor Aviva Loeb graduated from the University of Vermont in December 2015 and immediately scored a job designing pages for the Arizona Republic. Fourteen months later, she moved on to The Washington Post, adding her name to an employee roster emblazoned with names like Ben Bradlee, Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.

Not bad for a 22-year-old from Burlington, Vermont.

Such accomplisments don’t happen without work—or even with one kind of work. A student editor might design some amazing pages, but it takes more than an impressive clip book to get to the Post.

I asked Aviva a few questions about how to land that “dream job” …


How did you prepare for your career while still at UVM?

I was the layout editor of the Cynic from 2012 to 2014. From early on, I was getting experience with a lot of things I deal with in the real world,  like working on a deadline, conceptualizing art for stories, and working with many different personalities. I think learning how to problem-solve and work through conflicts in a newsroom was one of the most important things the Cynic taught me. I also learned a ton of technical skills for working with Adobe Creative Suite to create the Cynic layouts.

I supplemented the Cynic work by doing practicums, where the Cynic’s adviser, Chris Evans, and I worked through different areas that I wanted to learn more about, like leadership strategies. We also worked through Tim Harrower’s News Designers Handbook from cover to cover, doing almost every exercise in the book.

I did four internships while at UVM, including the Jerusalem Post and San Diego Magazine, and I took a magazine design class at the Rhode Island School of Design during the summer before my sophomore year. The other important thing I did was get involved in the Society for News Design. I applied for travel grants and scholarships, which helped me gain exposure to the industry and fund my unpaid internships.

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Aviva designed this “Milk” icon for the Post’s Kindle app.

How did you wind up at the Washington Post so soon after graduation? What was your path?

Working at the Post has been my dream for as long as being a visual journalist has been my dream. I’m honestly still shocked it happened as quickly as it did. I’ve been really fortunate in that, through SND, I got to know a lot of the designers at the Post while I was a student. This included Greg Manifold, the design director, who was one of my mentors as a student, critiquing my work on several occasions, and he let me shadow him and check out the newsroom. When I shadowed him I got to sit with my now boss, Amy King, for about an hour and learn about what her team, Emerging News Products, was doing. That was the first time I ever really thought about careers in digital, because I was so inspired by the work that they were doing. I always kept in touch with the people at the Post and tried to see them and talk to them at SND and other industry events, or whenever I was in DC.

Career-wise, before the Post I went out to Phoenix and worked in the Gannett Phoenix Design Studio for about 14 months. I vividly remember sitting in Chris’ office in November of 2015 and weighing my job offers. Chris asked me where I wanted to be in five years, and when I said, The Washington Post, he advised me to go out to Phoenix.
I worked on the Arizona Republic, and even though I worked in a Design Studio—a place where we designed pages for newspapers all across the country—I worked face-to-face with editors, which I really enjoyed. I designed for the daily print paper, focusing on A1 and Sunday sections, as well as creating images for social media.
I had really great managers and got to work with a bunch of incredibly smart designers who taught me a ton of stuff I didn’t learn in school. It was also really great to be able to watch how other designers think and problem-solve. The studio director, Tracy Collins, runs a really fabulous newsletter every week and showcases the best work from the studio and teaches a different lesson every week, so I got exposed to a lot. It changed my method a little bit. And I was able to go from the mentality of “I need to figure this out on my own and teach myself” to “I’m sitting next to someone who knows how to do this and can help me.”
I also got really involved with the Society for News Design as a volunteer, first as the deputy membership director and then as the website editor and now as the membership director. Being so involved has helped me stay on top of everything happening in the industry.

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Aviva designed this image for the Post’s national app

What’s the best thing about your job? The toughest thing?

Well, I’m really just getting started at the Post, but one of my favorite things is that no two days look the same. One day there was breaking news that needed to be added to the Snapchat story, and recently I created a social image for a story about a woman who runs a workshop where people get naked and talk about body image.  I also love that working for the emerging news products team means that what my job description is right now might not be what it is in five years, or even a year, just because of how fast the way we read stories is changing.
The most challenging thing so far has been adjusting from a daily paper to a non-stop form of news. On the Republic, I would conceptualize and illustrate maybe two stories a day, and now I’m doing about five to 10 in a shift. Also in print there’s a lot of downtime in the middle of a shift when you’re waiting for editors, and the Post puts out so much digital content that you go non-stop all day. Which I love.
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Aviva’s Samantha Bee image is for a new product, launching soon, called The Lily.

From your perspective, where is journalism heading? Is there hope for aspiring journalists?
It’s hard to predict. Things are changing so rapidly. Some of the platforms I design for didn’t exist when I started college. I think technology will play a huge roll in the future of journalism. There is definitely a need for journalists right now. There are stories that need to be told. What I think will set apart successful journalists in the coming years is the ability to adapt quickly to change, take big risks, and the motivation to teach themselves new skills.
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Like the “Milk” icon above, Aviva designed this image for the Post’s Kindle app.

What’s the one piece of advice that you would give UVM students who want to go into media careers?

I think what students often forget is that it’s OK to advocate for yourself and for your career. Put yourself out there. Ask professionals to look at your work. Ask them for advice. Ask if you can shadow them. Apply for internships you don’t think you’re qualified for.

One thing that makes UVM and its student journalists special is their drive to succeed in this field even without a structured program. And that’s something that I’ve found professionals notice and really appreciate.

One other amazing tip from this Cynic-grad turned-Post staffer: The Washington Post gives free digital subscriptions to students and educators with .edu emails. So sign up!

Vermont students expect free-speech win

May 12, 2017
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High school student editors testified before the Vermont House of Representatives judiciary committee in April. Clockwise from upper-left, they were Jenna Majeski of Woodstock Union High School, Robbie Maher of Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans and Jake Bucci of Burlington High School.

Vermont high school students could find their free-speech rights restored by summertime.

Both the Vermont Senate and House of Representatives last week voted to create a free-speech law designed to protect students from censorship when working as part of school-sponsored student media programs in Vermont’s public colleges and K-12 schools.

The proposed legislation has been forwarded to Gov. Phil Scott.

University of Vermont student editor Kelsey Neubauer, who in January testified in support of the legislation, said the new law would help Vermont’s high school students better engage in civic discourse. Current law allows school administrators to censor student newspapers and other forms of media for the most trivial of reasons, including incorrect grammar in a news story. The law, established in 1988, rolled back protections originally given to students in the landmark 1969 Supreme Court case Tinker v. Des Moines, which established that students’ free-speech rights should not end at the schoolhouse gate.

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Kelsey Neubauer, Vermont Cynic editor-in-chief

The new Vermont legislation is “a step toward instilling the importance of the press in the next generation of journalists,” said Neubauer, the 2016-2017 editor-in-chief of the UVM student newspaper The Vermont Cynic. “The protections given to student press through this law will help so many journalists do their job to serve their communities through truth and will empower them to do so on a larger scale later in life.

“It was so exciting to be a part of this process and such an honor to have seen such an important piece of legislation come to life. The most incredible part of the process was hearing the stories of Vermont high school journalists. I was in complete awe.”

High school editors from across the state traveled to the state capital of Montpelier to press lawmakers to approve the bill, which has been dubbed “New Voices” legislation because it’s intended to protect young Vermonters making their voices heard for the first time. The bill is just one of many New Voices efforts across the nation being championed by students, educators and professional journalists.

Among those Vermont students to testify were student editors Jenna Majeski of Woodstock Union High School, Robbie Maher of Bellows Free Academy-St. Albans; and Alexandre Silberman and Jake Bucci of Burlington High School.

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Jake Bucci, The Register co-editor, Burlington High School

Vermont lawmakers’ overwhelmingly positive response to the students’ testimony “shows that student journalists are finally being respected and trusted,” Bucci said.

Bucci and Silberman, co-editors of Burlington High’s award-winning newspaper, The Register, said that they looked forward to having legal protections to report responsibly about issues of concern to their fellow students. In the past, administrators have refused to let them publish stories that the administrators felt might upset some people.

“The New Voices law is important because it clearly defines what administration can and can’t do,” Bucci said, “and protects student journalists from censorship.”

Among the most visible advocates for the New Voices bill was veteran journalist Mike Donoghue, who serves as executive director of the Vermont Press Association and vice president of the New England First Amendment Coalition.

“This was really a team effort by students, teachers, advisers, professional journalists and just people interested in the First Amendment,” Donoghue said. “New Voices Vermont worked hard to try to ensure that high school and college students, along with their media advisers, will have First Amendment protections moving  forward.

“It was wonderful to see the students testify at the statehouse and to be actively engaged with legislators over First Amendment questions.  The legislators took the students just as serious as if they were dealing with experienced witnesses testifying.  These students are the future professional journalists that the public will depend on for finding the truth when it comes to reporting news in the future.”

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Mike Donoghue, Vermont Press Association executive director

Donoghue thanked the senators who sponsored the legislation—Jeanette White and Becca Balint of Windham County and Philip Baruth of Chittenden County—as well as all other legislators who took time to consider the bill.

New Voices also had the support of the Journalism Education Association, the Student Press Law Center in Washington, D.C., the American Society of News Editors, the New England First Amendment Coalition, and members of the Vermont Press Association, which represents the interests of the 11 daily and dozens of non-daily printed newspapers circulating in the state.

Donoghue said that he expects the bill to become law.

“We do expect Gov. Phil Scott will sign this important legislation,” he said. “This is a critical time that students are engaged in current events and that they are able to report on issues of public importance and concern.  Student journalists need to know how to ask the tough questions of their own teachers, principals, school superintendents and even school board members when it comes to news.

“These students are the future professional journalists that the public will depend on for finding the truth when it comes to reporting news.”

For updates, follow the New Voices Vermont Facebook page.


Full disclosure: The author provided advice during the drafting of the New Voices legislation in Vermont, testified in favor of the bill three times and serves as a liaison to the national New Voices campaign. Bias toward the subject of this story? Yes, I have it.