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What’s Brewing? with Theresa Malloy Lemickson, Associate Director of ThreeSixty Journalism

Through­out the past few years, while many sum­mer pro­grams have had to push pause on pro­gram­ming, Three­Six­ty Jour­nal­ism, hasn’t stopped mov­ing. This non­prof­it mul­ti­me­dia pro­gram for high school­ers “trains and sup­ports the next gen­er­a­tion of diverse thinkers, com­mu­ni­ca­tors, and lead­ers.” And they know that espe­cial­ly in today’s world, a com­mit­ment to dis­trib­ute the truth is need­ed in emerg­ing sto­ry­tellers. The jour­nal­is­tic field, like oth­ers, has been vic­tim to the recent spike in res­ig­na­tion rates, and Three­Six­ty is work­ing to help make sure the next wave of jour­nal­ists and dig­i­tal mavens are pre­pared for the task.

Bell­mont Part­ners has been a long­time sup­port­er of Three­Six­ty. Many on the Bell­mont team have back­grounds in jour­nal­ism and have spent sum­mers vol­un­teer­ing with the pro­gram. As a cher­ished com­mu­ni­ty part­ner, we reached out to There­sa Mal­loy Lemick­son, Asso­ciate Direc­tor, to dis­cuss the state of jour­nal­ism for incom­ing youth and how they’ve nav­i­gat­ed the pandemic.

What have been some of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions chal­lenges or shifts you’ve had to make through­out the pan­dem­ic, and what have you learned?

Engag­ing high school stu­dents in a vir­tu­al envi­ron­ment was chal­leng­ing at first, but not impos­si­ble. When the pan­dem­ic start­ed, we cre­at­ed an online pro­gram imme­di­ate­ly to get stu­dents talk­ing about what it was like to be a young per­son dur­ing the pan­dem­ic. We end­ed up tran­si­tion­ing all our sum­mer pro­gram­ming that year online. We also have become more flex­i­ble in bring­ing in speak­ers and vol­un­teers vir­tu­al­ly. If any­thing, what we’ve learned dur­ing the pan­dem­ic has expand­ed our pos­si­bil­i­ties, and it’s expand­ed the array of peo­ple that our stu­dents have met with. We’ve had some real­ly ded­i­cat­ed vol­un­teers who are work­ing from all over the country.

What’s some­thing you’ve learned from the stu­dents you work with? Either in the past year or overall?

I feel like I learn all the time. The young peo­ple that I’ve worked with late­ly are more hon­est. They’re more will­ing to hold peo­ple account­able. They ask tough ques­tions of the adults who are in the room, and I think that’s a pow­er­ful thing. Young peo­ple don’t have a lot of the social norms that pro­fes­sion­als do, so there’s no fear, and it’s that fear­less­ness I find so inspiring.

What does it mean to you for you to be a dig­i­tal media maven? How can com­mu­ni­ca­tion pro­fes­sion­als sharp­en their dig­i­tal skills?

Being a dig­i­tal jour­nal­ist today means real­ly being cre­ative. We were taught in jour­nal­ism school that when you write a news sto­ry, you should write it at a fourth-grade read­ing lev­el to appeal to a broad audi­ence. Tra­di­tion­al­ly, news has been pre­sent­ed as a dumb­ed-down expe­ri­ence, and I have the oppo­site opin­ion. I think read­ers are smart and high­ly engaged, and they’re used to get­ting news any­where so, right now for com­mu­ni­ca­tors, it’s real­ly fig­ur­ing out how to present infor­ma­tion in an engag­ing and sub­stan­tial way.

Three­Six­ty is not only a pro­gram for stu­dents, but you also have a vast net­work of sup­port. How can our read­ers sup­port the work you all are doing, and why is it important?

Three­Six­ty is always look­ing for pro­fes­sion­als to vol­un­teer as writ­ing coach­es, edi­tors and guest speak­ers. When you sit in a room, lis­ten to a stu­dent and give them that oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­act as a pro­fes­sion­al, it’s so mean­ing­ful and pow­er­ful. We teach skills of writ­ing and sto­ry­telling but they’re also learn­ing how to be an adult and how to be a com­mu­ni­ca­tor. A lot of our stu­dents end up being change mak­ers, and they’re dis­rup­tors in the best way. It’s impor­tant to sup­port the future. Diver­si­ty in jour­nal­ism is impor­tant, and it leads to social change. It leads to leg­isla­tive changes. We’re at a cru­cial point, and what bet­ter way to invest in the future than to give your time to the students.

What’s Brew­ing for Three­Six­ty? What’s com­ing up for the pro­gram and you?

I’m actu­al­ly work­ing on writ­ing my master’s the­sis in Eng­lish. I’m writ­ing it about an inves­ti­ga­tion that I start­ed when I was work­ing in a news­room. It’s about elder abuse and neglect. I’m real­ly using my jour­nal­ism and inves­tiga­tive skills by incor­po­rat­ing some per­son­al nar­ra­tive in that as well, so that’s the big thing.

For pro­gram­ming, I would say, cel­e­bra­tion, but also look­ing ahead to the future and a lot of advo­ca­cy work. Three­Six­ty is get­ting ready for its 20th-anniver­sary fundrais­er. Although we’re cel­e­brat­ing 20 years at St. Thomas, we’ve actu­al­ly been a pro­gram for 50 years.

We also are start­ing to inte­grate our­selves more with the Emerg­ing Media depart­ment and oth­er oppor­tu­ni­ties around St. Thomas. We’re offer­ing so many more camps. One of the biggest things we’ve been talk­ing about is how we reduce equi­ty barriers.

Stu­dents who par­tic­i­pate in the Radio Camp that we do with Min­neso­ta Pub­lic Radio, Kare SM, and – new this year – Amer­i­can Indi­an Fam­i­ly Cen­ter are all going to get a stipend at the end of the week for their time, and the same with our TV camp, which is spon­sored by Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Cen­ter for Pre­ven­tion. It’s cool to final­ly be offer­ing that because I feel like that’s become a real dif­fi­cul­ty for some stu­dents to attend the program.

Thank you, There­sa, for your ded­i­ca­tion to the next gen­er­a­tion of sto­ry­tellers. To learn more about how to get involved or sup­port these efforts, vis­it ThreeSixty.StThomas.edu.

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