Alumni: Jamie Lynn Ferguson
When I walked onto Anderson University’s campus for the first time, I told myself it was the place where I would mold a career that would change the world. And it was — at least for my world.
Six weeks after graduating from AU, I captured a position at a hyperlocal newspaper company in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. I started out as an assistant editor, but have moved my ways up the ranks since then. Today, I’m assistant managing editor and lead copyeditor for the company, as well as editor-in-chief of one of its seven newspapers.
Every day, I meet artists, politicians and soccer moms. I interview those who are grieving, those who are celebrating and those who lost their dog but now it’s found. And they all trust me to tell their stories.
Before I came to AU, all I knew was that I loved studying literature. So I started out in AU's English department and they embraced me. But once they really got to know me, they saw something different for me; something I had never seen. So they asked me, "What about journalism?" I said, “What about it?”
Journalism never occurred to me as a career path. Writing was a hobby, reading was a luxury, and correcting grammar was something I did when browsing a restaurant menu.
Four years later, I was walking across the stage with a degree in mass communication.
Throughout my journey, I was immersed in courses that dug deeply into what I would experience in the working world. I built a base of knowledge with the compassionate and tough love of all of my professors. They knew me, so they knew where I needed the most help. And then they did everything they could to make sure I got that help. Dr. David Baird showed me that journalism is not just reporting the facts, but being passionate about sharing information with a community of people who have no way of knowing what's going on without my help. It's a perspective I now bring to work with me every day, and it's made my job fun.
When I was at AU, I took every opportunity I could to write, and there were many. I was a staff writer at The Andersonian, interned at the Church of God's oneVOICE! magazine, and freelanced at nearby newspapers. I also picked up a job writing for a local business coaching firm. Every connection was made through the communication department at AU and keeping an eye on the bulletin boards throughout campus.
Now that I'm on the other side of the interviewing table, I compare my education to our candidates' résumés, and I think I got a pretty good deal. AU offers a really unique experience for those looking to pursue the art of communication. I was able to work closely with students venturing into public relations or broadcast communication — the people I would come to work with every day as a journalist. The mixed curriculum at AU set me apart when I was a job candidate, and it offers some job security for me now as journalism evolves.
As I assist in the management of our newspapers, I know how to make executive decisions about what's printable. I have to ask myself, does it look good? Does it make sense? Will we get sued? Do people care? I have the answers because of what I learned in my Mass Communication Law and Ethics classes. And If I don't have the answers, I learned enough not to guess. I ask other professionals, which have sometimes been my former professors.
As editor of The Frankfort Station, I write 10-12 stories per week and hand-select every story that goes into our approximate 50-page paper. I assign freelancers and take my own photography, and decide which story goes on which page.
As copyeditor, I read the front stories of each section of each newspaper and edit all of the company's restaurant reviews.
It sounds like a lot, and it is. But it's a rewarding way to spend my time, and I've even received some recognition because of it. In the past three years, I've received five awards from the Illinois Press Association, including first place for Best Lifestyle Section, third place for Sports Feature and honorary mention in Headline Writing. This year, I was nominated again for an award in Lifestyle Section as well as Local Editorial writing. I'll find out what places I received in mid June 2011.
The biggest reward over the years, though, is knowing that not only did I receive a quality education that landed me my dream job, but that I had a true and personal college experience along the way. The people I met, the connections I made and the personal lessons I learned were all part of the package. So when I set down my tape recorder, and go home to a room with a handful of awards, I've got much more than just a degree. I've got memories, friends, and a future that grows from them.
Jamie Lynn Ferguson
BA 2007, Anderson University
Communication Arts major
Assistant managing editor, 22nd Century Media