First class of ESSIC web journalists graduates

When former University of Maryland undergraduate Wynne Anderson stepped into the ESSIC IT office for an interview, she did not know she would be chosen as the Center’s new web journalist. She also did not know that she would later call a second applicant her savior.

Anderson was hired in September 2011, at a time when she said ESSIC’s existing website was based on an older static HTML model, while work on a new content management system was ongoing. Before the new website went live in March 2012, she worked to port pages from the old website, while creating new content.

Now add in a full course load along with the job – which involves reporting, interviews, calendar maintenance, and managing social media presence – and things get a tad hectic. This is when the first single web journalist evolved into the first web journalist class.

Ellen Stodola, former University of Maryland graduate student, was hired about a month after Anderson, and Anderson said Stodola made a huge difference as she brought the print journalism background that Anderson lacked.

The two complemented each other as Anderson was a senior broadcast journalism major and Stodola was a graduate print journalism student. Both graduated with degrees in journalism in May.

“Having Ellen around made a huge difference, she was great,” Anderson said. “She came in with a strong print background, and we were able to divide up the hours and be able to focus on school a bit more.”

Stodola agreed, saying the two web journalists worked very well together as they often exchanged responsibilities of interviewing sources and writing articles.

“Wynne and I get along really well,” she said. “The beginning was a lot of converting stuff from the other site but a lot of the articles we did we sort of coordinated on. It was a lot to put the website together, so it was good to have someone to work with.”

Although both agreed that dealing with a transitioning website and content management system was difficult, Anderson said a great deal of frustration came from her first article which was heavy on science jargon.

“My job was to translate for the average person while still making the scientific value obvious. Once you do that, you know you can kind of handle anything as a journalist,” she said.

Anderson also said despite the adversity, the article was her most gratifying experience at ESSIC.

Both were introduced to ESSIC the same way: They found out about the position through their respective journalism listservs.

Anderson, who had been working at a Bethesda restaurant, said she wanted a job in journalism and the web journalist position seemed perfect because of her qualifications, the job’s flexible hours and its proximity to campus.

Stodola said her experience with ESSIC was rewarding, in part, because it complemented the work she did last semester as an environment reporter for University of Maryland’s Capital News Service.

“[It was] kind of funny how it all intersected,” Stodola said.

She started work this summer as an energy reporter for Platts, a McGraw-Hill Company, and will be covering energy markets on Capitol Hill. Her future journalism path also intersects with her experiences at ESSIC, as she said energy reporting and environmental reporting overlap.

“There were some issues that came up that I already knew about through ESSIC, so it was good for me to have already known about them,” she said.

Anderson will explore her main interest in journalism – international reporting –when she works in London on a network desk for NBC, covering the Olympics for six weeks this summer. When she returns, she hopes to work the NBC Washington bureau, where she previously interned for two semesters.

She said studying abroad in London for a semester helped her chances when she applied to NBC for this summer.

Because she is familiar with the city, she said she will be “really lucky” to be able to visit friends and experience the international relations of the Olympics.

“It’s sort of a dream job for being right out of school,” she said. “Let’s hope it turns into something.”

While Anderson decided to pursue her undergraduate studies at Maryland, Stodola enrolled at Maryland after graduating from the University of Virginia.

Stodola said, despite her time at UVA, she had always been a huge Maryland fan and had always planned on being a graduate journalism student at Maryland, which she called “obviously, one of the top schools in the country.”

ESSIC Technology Manager Mark Baith, who served as news director for Stodola and Anderson, also spoke highly of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and the skills the two reporters brought to the Center.

“Wynne and Ellen both displayed a maturity and journalistic knowledge base that really speaks volumes about each of them individually, as well as Merrill’s overall program,” Baith said.

Anderson and Stodola are succeeded in their positions by junior journalism majors Brian Compere and Lauren McLendon.