At the Times Student Journalism Institute, It’s About the Essentials

Quick: Pick your boot camp essentials.

Forget notarized government documents, demands from belligerent sergeants and military orders. For this boot camp, mental stamina, a riveting passion for storytelling and a pen and pad are essentials.

That is because this boot camp is The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, a two-week program running from May 18 to June 2, dedicated to educating up-and-coming college journalists as they find their footing in a competitive career field.

The institute is for student members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and National Association of Black Journalists, and for those who attend historically black colleges and universities. The program is hosted at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York and the Times building.

This year’s class, with 20 women and six men, reflects the current makeup at journalism schools.

“Journalism schools are populated by far more women,” said John Haskins, the institute’s director. “That’s a reflection of where the industry is headed right now.”

John Haskins, who has worked for The Times for 29 years, has led the Institute for two years.

Since 2003, the institute has helped shape young careers with courses led by current and former Times employees and by coaching students in publishing their own paper and website.

Students will also combine traditional journalism principles like writing, editing and interviewing with new practices like videography, podcasts and social media outreach.

Don R. Hecker, one of the institute’s three founders, has watched institute alumni get hired at companies like NPR, NBC News Digital and The Washington Post, as well as at The Times.

“They would’ve made it on their own, but we jumped years off how long it would’ve taken,” Mr. Hecker said of the first few classes, which were hosted in New Orleans. “There’s going to be people you can interact with and see yourself as part of a place like The New York Times.”

Mr. Haskins, who has worked for The Times for 29 years in Hong Kong, Paris and London, is at the helm for the second year. He wants to “make sure that everyone here gets something out of the program and grows.”

He added: “Sometimes, it’s improving their writing. Sometimes, it’s improving their reporting. Sometimes, it’s getting along with co-workers and colleagues.”

The essentials for Malak Silmi are different. She is a Muslim observing Ramadan, so both her career interests and religious comittments are priorities during the institute. She grabbed cold veggie pizza just after 8 p.m. on Sunday night as she listened to administrators’ final thoughts on the welcoming day. On Monday, resuming her fast, she attended seminars.

“It’s a spiritual cleanse and a refocus in your life and in general,” Ms. Silmi said. “Being at the institute itself is refocusing me with my journalism viewpoint and my passion. I want to be more intuitive. I have more time to do that now because I’m not eating.”

Melody Greene, center, with Malak Silmi, far right, during a Race Related weekly meeting inside The New York Times. Gabriella N. Baez for The New York Times
Grabbing a slice, or two, before watching “The Fourth Estate,” a documentary series chronicling how The New York Times covered President Trump in his first year. Gabriella N. Báez/NYT Institute

The year’s class represents 24 colleges and students from 15 states and territories and Colombia.

For Jonathan Sarabia, a recent graduate of California State University, San Marcos, and one of five participants from California, it is essential to learn how to tell the stories of diverse cities. He wants to become an efficient reporter in a career with unknown, colorful destinations.

“Being able to experience something in a different state and approaching people is something that I wanted to get used to,” Mr. Sarabia said. “In my future, I want to be able to ascend out and it not to be a struggle for me to adapt to a different place.”

Lynda Gonzalez, 29, a photographer at the institute, is a former high school journalism teacher. During the institute, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a master’s degree in journalism and Latin American studies.

“The best teachers are the ones with the life experiences and the ones with illustrious careers as journalists,” Ms. Gonzalez said. “That’s the kind of career I want to have, so I can draw from that and teach people.”

Participants will learn from former Times employees like Ángel Franco and Merrill Perlman.

Mr. Franco, a photographer and Pulitzer Prize winner, worked at The Times for more than 25 years. Ms. Perlman also spent a quarter of a century at The Times. She has since become a successful freelance editor for publications like Amazon Kindle Singles and ProPublica.

Kirsti Itämeri, from left, Sandra Stevenson, Elijah S. Walker and Ángel Franco talk about visual storytelling. Gabriella N. Báez/NYT Institute

The institute’s mission is to strengthen students for the field while making room for personal and professional growth, Mr. Haskins said. Students have plenty of examples to follow, with several alumni of the institute participating this year as faculty members.

Rebecca Rillos, a 2012 institute alumna, is working with designers. Rick Rojas and James Wagner, both 2008 alumni, are helping reporters.

“One of the great things about this setup is we have students around the country,” Mr. Haskins said. “As you go along in your journalism career and find success, it depends on the friendships you make, the professional connections you make. So, I’m hoping this helps students along that path.”