“The biggest challenge young journalists face is the ever changing journalism industry… Make sure to gain experience in every medium of journalism. Don’t turn down an assignment. If you have a story idea, pitch it.”
We are proud to feature Valerie Bonk as our April alumna of the month. Valerie is currently a news anchor for HMTV6 out of Hagerstown, Maryland, and a writer for The Baltimore Sun. In addition, she is also a dance instructor, law student at the University of Baltimore, and a law clerk. Read more about Valerie’s most memorable pieces and where she hopes to be in the next five years.
MPS Journalism: Why did you choose to attend Georgetown’s Journalism program?
Valerie Bonk: After completing internships in Washington at NPR, ABC (Good Morning America), and CBS, I knew I really wanted to continue my education and training in the place to be for political journalism. While researching graduate schools in the area, I was attracted to Georgetown’s program because the professors are all current or recent professional journalists in the area with connections to several different outlets and a breadth of knowledge on how to cover both local internationally relevant stories.
MPS JO: How has your degree from the Journalism program helped you in your current job?
VB: I am a news anchor and reporter at HMTV6 in Hagerstown, Md. Through the journalism master’s program at Georgetown I was able to work on my writing skills and have professionals in the industry give input on my work, which made me more confident to put myself out there and get my current position around the time of graduation last year. Also, through my professor Carole Feldman, I learned about the Associated Press internship program and was very grateful to represent Georgetown and gain experience covering stories at the White House and the Capitol in the summer of 2013.
MPS JO: What is your best memory in the MPS Journalism program?
VB: Meeting other students of various backgrounds and having opportunities to work together and learn from each other. I still stay in touch with my classmates and we still help each other navigate the intense journalism job market.
MPS JO: What one piece of advice would you give current students? What do you think is the biggest challenge young journalists face, and how can they overcome that obstacle?
VB: Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Reach out to professors, to fellow classmates and to alumni and realize you’re not alone in your job search or in your studies. The biggest challenge young journalists face is the ever changing journalism industry. With newspapers ever changing and television stations restructuring and trying to gain viewers both on the air and online, it’s important to keep your head up and let them tell you know. Make sure to gain experience in every medium of journalism. Don’t turn down an assignment. If you have a story idea, pitch it.
MPS JO: What’s the most memorable piece you’ve published and why?
VB: My capstone was definitely a piece that I really enjoyed writing and putting together. I have a passion for homeschooling and was very excited to have the opportunity to delve deeper into the subject and learn more about the process of applying to college as a homeschooled student as I wrote my article and edited together my complementary video component.
Outside of school, one of my most memorable pieces was an article and video package I worked on while at the Associated Press. As a journalist sometimes your job is to present or expose something that people may not be aware of. My piece on the rising cost of prison phone calls and the controversy surrounding the regulation of phone coverage at prisons was a wonderful education for me. I found a woman trying to navigate how to pay for not only providing for her two young children but also trying to figure out how to pay the thousands of dollars it took to keep in touch with her husband who was in jail for striking and killing a man while drunk driving. I learned an immense amount through interviewing the individuals I found who were dealing with these costs and learning as well how to write a story and conduct interviews regarding a tough subject matter.
MPS JO: In recent months have you worked on any projects you are particularly proud of or have you had any unusual experiences in your coverage?
VB: I was given the opportunity to move from reporting to anchoring the news. This is something that I’ve always wanted to experience and never knew that I’d have the opportunity as I had been reporting for a while. I really enjoy being behind the desk and growing over the past year as a new anchor for live broadcasts.
MPS JO: Where do you see yourself in five years?
VB: Earning my law degree and working as a legal correspondent or a legal analyst for a television station. I have a passion for law and criminal reporting and very much want to combine my education in journalism and law to tell stories using those backgrounds.