Journalism Students Post to International Wire Service

Stories cover topics from body suspension to parade beads

Published: Apr 19, 2011
Julia Bodwell ’11 is one of two students who have had their stories published on United Press International’s website.
Julia Bodwell ’11 is one of two students who have had their stories published on United Press International’s website.
Julia Bodwell ’11 is a tattoo enthusiast who was intrigued by body suspension – suspending the body from hooks through body piercings.

“I know there is a lot of pain involved before the adrenaline kicks in. I was interested in how the skin stretches,” said Bodwell, who has no interest in trying it out herself. “It makes me a little queasy to think about the pain leading up to the suspension.”

Bodwell’s story on the trend of body suspension was published on United Press International’s website after being volleyed back and forth at least a dozen times with her UPIU mentor until all of the edits were complete.

Bodwell is one of several students in Assistant Professor Dan Reimold’s journalism class involved in UPIU, a project aimed at educating the next group of journalists. In addition to providing a platform for self-publishing student content (UPIU.com), UPIU staff lead workshops, provide feedback and edit the stories of these budding journalists with hopes of publishing them on UPI.com.

Bodwell’s story caught UPIU mentor Krista Kapralos’ eye, so she worked with Bodwell to flush out her story, recommending she get an original quote from a pain specialist and encouraging her to go with her more creative introduction to the story.

“It was pretty cool to have the feedback,” said Bodwell, an English major with a minor in writing, who is considering being a journalist. “After taking this class, it’s on my radar now.”

The students retain the rights to their pieces, and UPI doesn’t collect any revenue on UPIU pieces. Of the more than 3,000 stories submitted to UPIU.com, only 126 have been published by UPI. Two of them have come from Reimold’s students this semester.

“The website offers a pretty easy public platform and provides a professional sheen,” said Reimold, who heard about the program in spring 2010 while teaching in Singapore. He introduced it to his fall 2010 basic news reporting class and found that it added motivation for the students and created a real sense of audience. He said he hopes opportunities like this create interest in the new journalism major launching this fall.

Kapralos, UPIU regional director of the Americas, Africa and Europe, said in working with students, most times she has to work hard to draw out their story ideas. This wasn’t the case at UT.

“The UT class is probably one of the most fun classes I’ve worked with,” said Kapralos.

In Reimold’s class, she said they shout out their ideas and are supportive with one another, encouraging each other to write about the recent raids of pain management clinics, sexual activity on campus, interracial dating and how much change homeless people can solicit in a single night.

“They come up with story ideas I wouldn’t have thought of, topics that are edgy and modern,” Kapralos said. “Students are usually nervous about tackling serious issues. The UT students aren’t afraid to tackle some unusual, big or taboo issues.”

On April 1, Amanda Sieradzki ’13 found out a story she had written was being published on UPI’s website. She thought it was an April Fool’s joke until Kapralos convinced her otherwise.

“It was exciting to see what I was learning in the classroom was having real-world results,” said Sieradzki, a writing major.

Sieradzki, a resident assistant at the Howard Johnson hotel, was sitting in her room one day shortly after Tampa’s Gasparilla invasion. A bag of her loot – plastic beads in various colors – was sitting on the floor, and she wondered what to do with it. She found some of her residents decorated their rooms by hanging the beads in long strands. She found organizations that resell them for charity. Her story was born.

For Sieradzki, getting her story on UPI’s site was challenging but worth it. She is now considering double majoring in journalism.

“It’s something I’ve been very happy to put on my resume and carry with me outside UT,” she said. “This showed me what the journalistic side of my writing would be like.”

Though the mentoring program is active in more than 35 schools like Michigan State and Rutgers universities, representing more than 12 countries like China and South Africa, all student journalists are invited to post their work to UPIU.com where anyone can see it, read it and comment on it.

“There are a lot of students that are going out of their way to get published,” Kapralos said. “Some are fantastic and really surprise us.”


Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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