Ryan Aroney and Cassie Neiden speak during the teacher professional development day.                Jay Sigal | The Collegian

Kirsten Hill
Staff Writer

Everyone loves a good story.  The writers of stories, journalists, are in demand at newspapers, magazines, non-profits and other organizations who need to communicate with their communities.  This was the message at a breakout session featuring three former students of LCCC’s journalism program.  It was held during the teacher professional development day on Nov. 5 at LCCC’s Spitzer Conference Center.

“Newspapers are still viable,” said Keith Reynolds, a reporter at the Morning Journal.  He shared there are several job openings right now at his paper and The Chronicle Telegram.

“Maybe it’s not the traditional written word,” said Cassie Neiden, managing editor of Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary magazines.  She listed various jobs that require writing skills and suggested to scour job boards and update LinkedIn (business and employment website) profiles to look for open positions.

Personal Experiences 

Ryan Aroney, marketing and development director at United Way of Greater Lorain County, said, “Having a journalism background has helped set our organization apart.”  He started out as a sports reporter at the Morning Journal.  One of the things he does in his current role is write press releases which are sent to the newspapers.  “The Morning Journal has been a great partner and the Chronicle as well.  If we provide a nice platter, then the newspaper doesn’t have to do (so much work),” Aroney said.  

The route taken to a job in journalism by the session panelists, Reynolds, Neiden and Aroney, varied.  

“I wanted to be a musician.  I wanted to be a composer,” said Reynolds.  “My dad always pushed me to go into news[casting].  I told him flat out I didn’t want to do that.”  He was encouraged by others to pursue music education because there is always a need for music teachers.  He changed his mind away from music education while attending a music education convention in Cincinnati and started out his writing career writing music reviews.

Neiden described how she graduated from high school during the 2008 recession and people around her encouraged a recession-proof career in healthcare.  She took biology classes at the University of Akron for a year but then returned home and enrolled in journalism at LCCC.  

“I was really interested in sports growing up.  Having the writing background in journalism gave me an in to stay in sports,” said Aroney.  After graduating from Oberlin High School, Aroney worked as director of media relations for a sports team.  The organization that sponsored the sports team also performed community service in which players on the team participated.  Aroney’s interests changed and he found himself more interested in writing about the community service than sports.   “I liked creating content and sharing stories.”

An important question that lingers about taking a journalism-related job is how much it pays.  Clifford Anthony, professor of Journalism at LCCC, said that the median salary is $39,000.  He shared that a copywriter can make $45,000 and a career in public relations and marketing yields an even higher salary, $59,000.  

To be compensated well for writing in journalism-related jobs takes years of time and investment into building the skill of writing.  Elementary and high school teachers are on the frontlines of discovering this talent in students.

Mr. Lowry, Neiden’s television tech teacher at Amherst High School, was her inspiration to a future in journalism.  It was an auditions-based class and only 20 students were selected.  The class performed an 11-minute daily live broadcast to students in the high school.

Aroney knew exactly who launched his direction towards a career that is writing-related.  He had done a presentation at a luncheon for new teachers from around Lorain County.  Mrs. Price, his 9th-grade teacher, pulled him aside after that presentation and encouraged him to take advanced English and public speaking classes.

“I’d like to see the basic principles of storytelling begin in first grade in school curriculums.  It’s so important,” writes Rini Jeffers, reporter at The Chronicle Telegram on Nov. 9, 2018, resulting from an interview of storyteller Donna Kuczynski, 83, of Amherst.  Storytelling in this context refers to the spoken word.

Teachers recognizing a talent for writing in their students and suggesting to individual students to focus their efforts in the journalism direction can pay off.  This was the basic message that was conveyed by the three panelists, Reynolds, Neiden and Aroney.

“They (LCCC and the Educational Service Center of Lorain County)  have actually created this program in partnership with five school districts; Clearview, Columbia, Firelands, Keystone and Wellington,” said Cindy Kushner, director of school and community partnerships at LCCC, referring to the professional development day.  Approximately 560 people attended and 20 of the 64 event’s breakout sessions were led by LCCC faculty.  Inspiration for this event was drawn from Franco Gallo, current superintendent of ESC, who held something similar at Keystone back in February while he was the superintendent of there.  “LCCC faculty connecting teachers to the career pathway,” said Kushner is the main outcome expected from this event.