E-town student journalist interviews national newscasters for Honors in the Discipline research
Reading emails, checking children’s temperatures, meeting proposal deadlines, packing lunches and compiling expense reports—these are just a few of the activities professionals must balance with their daily work schedules. As part of her Elizabethtown College Honors in the Discipline project for not one major, but two, senior mass communications and sociology student Irene Snyder has taken a look at this precarious balance with specific focus on newsroom employees.
“I want to be a reporter,” she said in an interview in the College’s Steinman Center for Communications and Art. “I love telling people’s stories, but, at the same time … actually see what their lifestyle’s like. It’s not just having an internship and shadowing but being able to talk to them and hear about their lives.” After completing a research and analytics course for the Department of Sociology on work-family spillover, Snyder continued her look into the work-life balance of newsroom employees as part of SCARP, the Summer Scholarship, Creative Arts and Research Projects program.
“I think one of the biggest difficulties in this project is managing the time,” Snyder said of the research that continues through the semester. “My problem, now, especially with school, is being able to have the time to set up interviews.”
I love telling people’s stories, but, at the same time … actually see what their lifestyle’s like.
What started as 10 conversations from her internship at ABC-27, the local Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, news station, quickly snowballed into finding nearly 40 interview subjects for her research. While talking with interviewees, she asks if they have other contacts for her concerning the subject. “The next thing I know I walk in with two interviews one day, and leave with five.”
With the amount of interviews conducted and Snyder’s preferred interview format, she has traveled around the Pennsylvania news market and, often, had reached as far north as New York and as far south as Atlanta.
Snyder realized, as she conducted interviews, that one hurdle was leaving room for error. “When you have technology, you’re going to have error. Or you have to account for New York traffic,” she said.
The E-town senior conducts on- and off-camera interviews to get a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of reporters and their balancing techniques. The on-camera interviews consist of asking the subject questions about how having a family affects their job and vice versa or the challenges they face balancing their schedules. This portion of her research will be presented at SCAD, E-town’s Scholarship and Creative Arts Day in the spring, and, if accepted, at the Pennsylvania Communication Association—an organization that advocates for the teaching, research, service and development of human communication.
Assisting Snyder throughout her mentored project are her advisors, Kirsten Johnson, associate professor of communications, and Michele Lee Kozimor-King, associate professor of sociology.
Johnson said her experience in TV news, combined with Dr. Kozimor-King’s in sociology, met Irene’s skills in media communication and meshed well. “I really applaud [Irene’s] tenacity in going out and getting all these interviews and emailing and calling people. It takes a tremendous amount of time to do that,” Johnson said.
Also helping with Snyder’s project is junior mass communications major Tara Siano. As Associate Professor Johnson’s student assistant, Siano signed on to the project to help Snyder transcribe the plethora of interviews. “It’s been a really interesting experience, because I get to hear, directly, how people are balancing their work and home life in multiple fields,” Siano said.
One of the themes that became evident to Snyder and Siano was the understanding that work-life balance is possible as a journalist.
“I want to be a news reporter, but, at the same time, I enjoy research,” Snyder said. “So, in this way, I basically get the best of both worlds. Organization, time management, not having holidays off … being flexible. It’s been good advice for me to hear.”