Two Time Winner of Second Best in the South: Former Student Journalist Danielle Turner

Danielle+Turner+is+over+ecstatic+over+her+win+of+2nd+place+for+arts+and+entertainment+writing.++Turner+states+how+the+awards+that+she+has+received+has+boosted+her+confidence+in+herself%2C+%22...As+someone+who+held+off+from+journalism+because+they+didn%27t+feel+smart+enough%2C+getting+an+award+from+a+group+of+professionals+is+so+validating.%22+

Provided by Danielle Turner

Danielle Turner is over ecstatic over her win of 2nd place for arts and entertainment writing. Turner states how the awards that she has received has boosted her confidence in herself, "...As someone who held off from journalism because they didn't feel smart enough, getting an award from a group of professionals is so validating."

Caitlynn Kelley, Journalist

She is the winner of second best editorial, opinion writer and second best art, entertainment writer for student journalism in the South. She is someone who has become an editorial manager in just 3 months for her university’s newspaper, The Bison. But who is Danielle Turner really, and how was she able to climb up the journalism ranks so quickly? 

Danielle Turner is a 2016 alumni from University Preparatory. Turner has just graduated from Harding University in pursuit of a major in public relations.

During her time there, she was a student journalist turned editorial manager. Danielle Turner details how she became a student journalist in the first place, “As a public relations major at Harding, we are required to guest write for the newspaper for a semester, so that’s how I was initially introduced to student publications. From there, I just started to get excited about writing assignments and searching for new angles.”

Turner talks about how she cemented her job as a student journalist at her university, “The editor-in-chief had given me an assignment for a story they didn’t think was going to go anywhere, it was something just meant to fill a page and produce extra content, but I wrote it in a way that I thought would be the most interesting to read and it ended up being the front page of the Homecoming issue. I think that’s when they really started trusting me and looking at me as a potential staff writer, then at a semester there were some positions opening up and because they knew my work ethic and ability they offered me the job without an interview!”

The editor-in-chief had given me an assignment for a story they didn’t think was going to go anywhere, it was something just meant to fill a page and produce extra content, but I wrote it in a way that I thought would be the most interesting to read and it ended up being the front page of the Homecoming issue.”

— Danielle Turner

Danielle said that she didn’t even have any prior experience with the UP Publications staff. However, Yearbook Advisor Mrs. Petruschin allowed her to dabble with the Yearbook software and that helped her a lot in constructing a design foundation. 

According to Bruce E. Konkle, Robert E. Lee was one of the first that advocated in America for journalism courses in college. After a couple of years after the Civil War, there was a journalism course added at Washington College. Some elite ivy league colleges back in the day tried to instate journalism courses at their respective colleges, but were met with hostility. The University of Missouri is the first American University to open its own journalism school and it was able to put a lot of trained journalists to work at newspapers. Many universities in the South started to open up journalism schools as well. The United Amateur Press Association of America was established, which was a different source of resources for high school and college students interested in journalism. Overall, during the 20th century is when collegiate journalism started to spread its wings and develop. 

Although it may not seem like it, Turner believes her major, Public Relations, is very related to Journalism. She explains, “I majored in Public Relations, which I like to explain as sort of the child of both journalism and marketing. It is not journalism, but it does compliment it very well and working in both industries helps [me] clearly see how they go hand in hand!”

Public Relations goes all the way back to the early 20th century. Businesses, companies, and  famous persons have people who are experienced in the public relations field to help them build good, solid relations with other companies, government agencies, the public, etc. This helps build their good standing within the community and its reputation overall. Interpretation of public opinion is made to foresee the consequences of actions that they want to make.

The business, company, or person wants to make sure that the public understands what their goals are and how they want to achieve them. In order to do this, they may establish programs in the community, governmental affairs, market, and so on. As a public relations major, you can go into these career fields and jobs: multicultural relations, governmental affairs, strategic planner, etc. Jobs in the public relations field are in high demand and on average make a salary around $60,000.

Like Public Relations, journalism also has many benefits. About the skills that you can acquire as a journalist, she states, “The first skill you develop as a good journalist is becoming a great conversationalist and interviewer. Once you have those basic communication skills down, I’d say you’re pretty prepared for most situations. As someone who interviewed at least three people a week on a variety of topics, I was ready to walk into an interview and know how they would like me to speak and what they want me to say while still being my own person. Having a background in journalism taught me to walk into an interview with research already done, looking to make a connection.”

Turner explains what journalism means to her, “To me, journalism stands for educating the public. We’re taught in journalism courses to write every article at a fourth-grade comprehension level and I have always done that; there’s no reason anyone should not be able to have access to the stories of their own community.”

Danielle elaborates on the important position that journalists have as being voices for the voiceless, “To be a voice for the voiceless is a very privileged position to be in, and it’s one I try not to take for granted. It means leaving your own biases at the door and thinking honestly about what your audience needs to know. Some people think all news media is ‘fake news’ and that’s fine, but I think most journalists never walk into a story aiming to have bias, bust instead we aim to serve our communities and the moment we stop thinking about our communities and begin thinking about ourselves is the moment we fail as journalists.”

Some people think all news media is ‘fake news’ and that’s fine, but I think most journalists never walk into a story aiming to have bias, bust instead we aim to serve our communities and the moment we stop thinking about our communities and begin thinking about ourselves is the moment we fail as journalists.”

— Danielle Turner

Before Trump: the real history of fake news,” an article by the Guardian, goes in depth in how “fake news” has been around for a very long time (not just since the 2016 US Presidential Election). Author Steven Poole states that there has never been a time that has been utterly transparent. He goes into reasons why politicians and other public figures might want to spread disinformation. Some of the reasons he includes are that they want to make themselves look better and to look like they know more about a certain subject that they aren’t competent on. An article by the BBC titled “The (almost) complete history of ‘fake news,” talks about how the term has come into common use among people and how social media has amplified the spread of fake news. In a Macedonian town, there were teenagers who wrote false articles that surrounded the 2016 election. They posted these articles on Facebook and garnered a significant amount of views. Social media platforms are now more focused on making sure that fake news doesn’t plague their websites. Facebook has hired more people to check the posts that go on their website and Twitter has banned political advertising

This is a photo of the impeachment story that Turner wrote for Harding University’s student publication, The Bison. Turner recalls the harassment that she received online from writing this article, “…I wrote an article about the impeachment and got a dm from someone telling me I’m not qualified as a journalist.” (Danielle Turner)

In the midst of all this misinformation, good journalism and keeping the public informed is crucial. Turner explains why student publications specifically are important, especially to the community, “Student publications are so important! Large news media counts on smaller news media to keep their own communities informed. If there was only NBC and CNN, who would cover the Victorville City Council meetings? This stuff might sound boring, but it is important to keep your community informed and tact. For example, this past year in my college town there was a motion passed in a City Council Meeting banning panhandling and loitering in public areas. One of our journalists was luckily there to report it and inform the community, which started a discussion on the ethicality of effectively banning homeless people from existing in our city. Large media would’ve never gotten the story, or cared about it. There are niche stories that small publications are responsible for reporting because the community still needs the education.”

Unfortunately, good journalism comes at a price. She describes times when she and the publications staff have been challenged by the university or others for stories that they’ve written, “I’ve been threatened personally for topics I’ve written about and our media has been threatened for covering controversial topics. I wrote a review on Kanye West’s Christian album and got a dm (direct message) from someone telling me to drink paint and die… Our publication has dealt with altercations with administration because of what we want to cover that has threatened the continuation of our paper. It’s the reality of sharing your opinions with the world and it’s hard, but it’s definitely worth it!

Our publication has dealt with altercations with administration because of what we want to cover that has threatened the continuation of our paper. It’s the reality of sharing your opinions with the world and it’s hard, but it’s definitely worth it!”

— Danielle Turner

Regarding how journalism plays a role in sustaining democracy, she replies, “If you go to any journalism conference you will see groups of people wearing shirts with the simple phrase ‘Journalism matters.’ And it does. Journalism holds our government, on both the large and smaller scales, to a standard. It keeps information accessible, which in my opinion, is a basic human right.”

Danielle gives her advice to those who are interested in journalism, “If you’re interested in journalism, my advice is so cliché, but you have to be ready to go for it. I stopped myself from pursuing student publications for so long because everyone was so intimidating and intelligent and I was sure that I wouldn’t belong. However, once I got past my initial fear, I found my place and felt fulfilled by my work. A lot of people say journalism is a dying field, but I really believe that the field is growing and changing and needs newer, younger people who are passionate to revitalize the field. Go for it!”

There has been talk among many journalists and people around the world if in fact journalism is dying. The so-called “dying of journalism” or “death of journalism” is due to lack of credibility (false news reporting) and the decrease of people reading local newspapers. Big newspapers buying out the local newspapers (examples of such include The Gazette and The Telegram) makes towns or cities into a “one newspaper town,” worsening the problem. This is very damaging for those who live in those communities, because they won’t have knowledge of the important things that are happening where they live. Some of these crucial topics that they will no longer hear about in their community are local government elections, environmental issues, and political corruption. Stan Freeman, a resident of Northampton Massachusetts, stated in a New York Times article that the two local newspapers’ staffs have been reduced to practically nothing. He states that the checks and balances from those newspapers are now completely gone, which leaves for political corruption to ensue. 

She describes what it is like to be a student journalist at Harding University, “My university is different than most when it comes to being a student journalist. As a privately owned university there are no laws preventing our publications from undergoing censorship. There are certain topics we aren’t allowed to discuss that we would really like to and there are some articles that are beautifully written that undergo heavy editing to fit within the guidelines administration gives to us. It’s frustrating, but it also makes us creative and helps us advocate for ourselves and the topics we have to report on. Last year, we ran an issue about the realities of different kinds of addictions. The actual paper was done three weeks before it was published because we had to keep editing and getting permission, but we fought through to get it published and it made us more proud at the end of the day.”

According to an Investigative Reporting Workshop article, 76% of editors of student publications in private Christian universities and colleges felt pressured by staff in their respective universities to edit or delete a story that they published. A survey that members of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities participated in shows that the advisers that the college or university has in place have the power to control which stories are published and which ones are not. Will E. Young, a previous editor at Liberty University, stated that censorship that goes on in Christian colleges and universities is to make sure that they don’t tarnish their reputation and that stories about controversial subject matter aren’t published. 

Luckily, this censoring has not discouraged Turner, as her awards can attest to. Concerning the process and her emotions surrounding her awards, she states “For college-level awards, your editor-in-chief will submit the best articles for consideration, so to find out you’ve been nominated is a real confidence booster because you know that your boss really does believe in you and is proud of what you’re doing. However, winning something you’ve been nominated for is completely different. I think I’ve won around 8 awards now and every single time I have to triple check because I’m sure they mixed up my name and don’t mean to call me. As someone who held off from journalism because they didn’t feel smart enough, getting an award from a group of professionals is so validating. I do have to add though that some people I’ve worked with only ever think about the awards they will receive and I hate that sort of thinking; my first priority is always serving my community with the privilege I’ve been given and any award I receive along the way is the cherry on top, not the point.”

Turner talks about the change from only writing stories in the Lifestyle genre to writing different and more difficult articles and what that entails, “The most difficult things I wrote were about really hard topics. By far the hardest article that I ever wrote was about individuals’ experience with porn addiction. I was the Lifestyle girl, I wrote a lot about Taylor Swift and what you just ordered at Taco Bell, so moving in a more serious direction was not something I was used to! It was excruciating to change speeds, but it was fulfilling to work on a story that was really going to matter in our community. Most news articles I wrote were very difficult. I wrote an article about the impeachment [of US President Donald Trump] and had a very hard time keeping my personal biases out of it. Some articles are harder to write because the interviews were so personal, it feels more like a relationship than a work conversation but the intentions never changed.”

Turner has since then graduated from Harding University this May with a bachelors in Public Relations. Danielle Turner is now interning at a nonprofit organization called ZERO: The End of Prostate Cancer. She is trying her best to look for career opportunities, even though the coronavirus pandemic has made this very difficult for her. Currently, she has two job offers: one is from Disneyland as an Event Coordinator and the other is from a university in Alabama as an admissions counselor. She talked about the realities of graduating and moving during COVID-19 pandemic, “Graduating college was really hard, specifically because of the loss of events and experiences, but college is really hard when you live there! Leaving college was hard; I left everything I owned in my apartment on March 7th and got back yesterday, May 21st, to move out.” Turner doesn’t have any plans of continuing her higher education right now, but she thinks that she might when she’s older.