Most Valuable Blogger: My Experience at the Iowa Summer Journalism Workshop

Most Valuable Blogger: My Experience at the Iowa Summer Journalism Workshop

The Personal Writing girls on a scavenger hunt

  Last month, I spent four days in Iowa City, Iowa attending the 65th Iowa Summer Journalism Workshop (ISJW) at the University of Iowa. I had never been to Iowa before so along with getting my first taste of the University of Iowa's campus I also took a bite into the atmosphere of Iowa City. Before attending the camp, the University of Iowa was on my radar as one of my top two college options. During the ISJW, I decided that no other college will ever come close to the University of Iowa. The University of Iowa is the college of my dreams as well as the perfect school for future journalists like myself.
  I was one of the four campers that partook in the Personal Writing Workshop. The other seventy campers were involved in workshops that focused on photo journalism, investigative reporting, graphic design, yearbook design, leadership, and sports reporting. My workshop was focused on writing reviews and the craft of blogging. Although everyone was segregated during the day, I still managed to meet people from other workshops.
  The main reason why I attended the ISJW was so that I could get some input on my personal blog and learn ways to improve my writing and web page. The personal writing workshop walks campers through the process of starting up a blog and how to  write different types of posts. The most important thing I learned from the workshop was to get out in the community, take some awesome pictures, and write about an experience directly after it happens. I'm still stuck in my old ways of waiting a few days or weeks after the experience but I'm working on the timeliness of my blog posts. 
  During the camp, I had the awesome experience of staying at Burge Hall. Burge Hall is currently the second largest dorm on the University of Iowa's campus. As a future Hawkeye, my chances of living in Burge are extremely high. It was interesting living in the dorms and getting a feel for campus life at the University of Iowa.
  The campus, for me, can make or break a school. I've been to a handful of colleges and if I hate how the campus is arranged I won't even consider applying there. 
  Downtown Iowa City surrounds the campus and currently is under a ginormous amount of construction which skewed my view of the city. The homeless population and construction downtown definitely ruined things for me. Needless, I don't love Iowa City yet. 
Taken by photojournalism student, Bella
  During first afternoon/evening on campus, I met the girls in my workshop and my instructor, Jarrin Williams. That night while we were working on our first assignment, I asked Mr. Williams to look over my personal blog. He was really impressed and gave me confirmation that I am in fact a talented blogger. Mr. Williams told me, "This blog is internship worthy... I mean, even scholarship worthy. This is so professional! Girl, you're making me realize that I've gotta step up my blog game!" I was really happy because I had started this blog on a whim without really knowing what I was doing. (That's a lie, I knew what I was doing... at least a little bit *smiles*)
  Throughout the rest of the week I visited and reviewed a coffee shop, went to the Johnson County Fair, and got to know Iowa City a little bit better. I also saw my first fire fly. Even though I've lived in both the suburban and rural Midwest my entire life, I had never seen a fire fly before. I just thought that they didn't live in Midwestern America! How wrong was I? Litters of lightning bugs surround the campus and it made my stay in Iowa City extra magical.
Ridge & Furrow aka The Brain
  With that said, I really love the campus at the University of Iowa. I loved passing by the stately Chemistry building (the shade is lovely) every morning and patting "The Brain" (Ridge & Furrow) multiple times a day. I didn't even mind the huge hill I had to climb every day to get back to the dorms from the journalism building. 
  On my last full day in Iowa City, Mr. Williams gave the personal writing workshop the opportunity to meet four summer staff members from The Daily Iowan, the student run on campus newspaper. I didn't even KNOW there was a newspaper on campus let alone that The Daily Iowan is one of the top five college level student run newspapers in the country. I felt a like a ditz for not picking up on that earlier... But after talking to the editor in chief, a sports reporter, an arts editor, and photographer, I realized that I definitely needed to work at The Daily Iowan when I was a student at the university. 
On set of the campus news!
  Being the general butt kisser I am, I quickly wrote up a thank you note to the summer staff members I met and dropped in the URLs of my personal and ISJW blogs. I ventured back to The Daily Iowan offices and chatted with the arts editor I had met earlier, Girindra Selleck, about my plans after high school and aspirations to work at The Daily Iowan. He told me that if journalism was something I wanted to do, there's absolutely no college better than the University of Iowa to attend. I suggested that he take a look at my blog and thanked him again for his time... The Daily Iowan is a daily newspaper so every second that they are in the offices, they should be working their butt off on the next issue. While the personal writing girls and I were meeting with the staff, the editor in chief, Lily Abromeit, expressed her concern that they didn't have a sports article to headline the sports section. She showed us the holes in the mock up paper for the next day as a visual. I didn't want to waste anyone's time but I felt the need to get my name into at least someone's head at the paper. As I walked away I asked myself, was what I did worth any of our time? I would soon find out... 
  Before the evening class session, I was walking through Adler, the journalism building while I was on the phone with my mom. I didn't have my glasses on. Little known fact, I cannot see people's faces unless they are two feet away from me. I didn't realize until I was almost past him that the arts editor I met earlier that day was walking past me. I hung up on my mom and managed to catch Girindra before he went back into the Daily Iowan's offices. I asked him if he had a chance to read my blog. He told me that he read it (score!) and that if I kept that quality up, I would definitely be working for the Daily Iowan by the time I was a Hawkeye. Another confirmation that my blog is quality... I must be doing something right!
Most Valuable Blogger at
the ISJW '16:
 Bailey Cichon
   By the last day of the camp, I had a huge idea brewing in my head: I should try to start a newspaper at my high school. There isn't a journalism program at my school which leaves a huge whole in the school cultural community. 
  I told my adviser my glass ceiling shattering idea. Mr. Williams was ecstatic to hear that I wanted to be the head of such a large project and volunteered to write up a letter of recommendation for my future adviser and my principal. "You're the best one to do it," he told me. In the mean time, I drilled the other three other girls in my workshop about their student publications. All of them will be seniors this year and are in editor positions at their paper back home. Since the ISJW, I've gotten 10 people on board with the project, an adviser, and future meetings with my high school's new principal and the activities coordinator. Though the Journalism Club isn't an official club (yet) I think we should be able to get a publication up and running by October. Fingers crossed!!
   Each year on the last day of the Iowa Summer Journalism Workshop, workshop advisers award a small handful of worthy campers with an certificate of achievement. Out of all of the people in my workshop, I won Most Valuable Blogger! Mr. Williams explained to the crowd that I produced quality work all week and showcased a real talent for blogging. I am extremely proud of myself for having been chosen for the award. Last November, I was a greenhorn blogger who was unsure of her presence online but continued to post and managed to retain a following. On August 2, 2016 I reached 2,000 page views. As I type, I am about to go over 300 page views on one of my blog posts. The month has gotten me moving at full speed. Founding a newspaper and a club is a very difficult task. There are many school board policies to read and hoops to jump through. Thankfully, I've found my niche and even the world can't stop me now! 


  1. I'm so thankful our paths crossed at ISJW this past summer and I continue to be impressed by all you've done! The future is BRIGHT and I cannot wait to follow your post-high school journey!


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