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5 Years In The Sandbox – ‘The Perfect Place To Get Your Footing’

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Headshot of Brandon Shaik, member of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism's incoming Class of 2016. Photo ©Skyler Reid/

Photo ©Skyler Reid/

by Brandon Shaik

When and how did you work on the Sandbox?

I was one of the founding editors of the Sandbox way back in Fall 2011 as part of the Writing for the Mass Media class. I was the Arts & Culture editor and I worked a lot with the St. Petersburg arts community to feature local plays, exhibits, student artists, etc. After leaving SPC, I went on the University of South Florida Tampa where I majored in Psychology and minored in Statistics. I worked for The Oracle, the USF Student Newspaper as the Opinion Editor, Assistant News Editor, and Lifestyle Editor where I produced work such as “Which way to the restroom?,” “Learning from the dead” and “The face of face blindness.”

How does media – traditional and otherwise – fit in your future or current endeavors?

Following graduation from USF, I was accepted into the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism where I study data journalism and will graduate this December. This past summer I did a fellowship with the Data Journalism team at Univision digital in Miami where I produced work such as “Why it matters that Tim Kaine speaks Spanish,” “Bernie Sanders failed to win over minority voters” and  “Español en America.”

What role do you see media playing in everyday life?

Newsrooms across the U.S. are constantly reinventing and innovating the way that we reach readers, provide them with information and create a true experience for them with our work. No longer are the news organizations feeding their readers lengthy dissertations and 4,000 word manifestos. While there is certainly a place for that type of work in nearly every newsroom and there surely always will be, I think this is a really exciting time for journalists to think about alternative ways to tell stories that will engage readers in ways that have never been done before. Creating news app graphics to contextualize data in a more personalized form for the reader conveys a different story for everyone who engages with the tool and allows them to investigate the data for themselves. News organizations like FiveThirtyEight are doing a lot of really great work such as their “Gun Deaths in America.” Readers want to know where they fit into a story and we have the power to provide them with that ability by just thinking beyond the written piece.

What advice would you give a current or prospective Sandbox reporter?

For those just starting out in journalism, I would advise taking every opportunity to learn and grow. Cover every event, jump on every story offered by an editor. You can only learn through experience, through talking to people, covering a broad scope of topics. The Sandbox, and any other college publication you may be a part of in the future, is the perfect place to get your footing, find your voice and learn. I would also recommend that every journalist who wishes to work in this field become efficient in some form of multimedia or alternate skill: audio, video, coding, design, statistics, graphics, etc. This is the future of journalism and it’s imperative to have some (or most) of these skills to be a contender in the field these days. My biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there constantly. Apply for the jobs you want even if you don’t think you qualify yet, email the people doing work you admire and talk to them about what you can do to get where they are, engage with these people on social media. The internet makes the world so small and you can end up rubbing elbows on twitter with some of your idols.

As I said, this is an exciting time to be a journalist and newsrooms across the country are redefining the role constantly. It’s important to get all of the experience you can early on and build on that with the technical skills later. But always be thinking about what you wish you could read and how you can make that happen.

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