New York Times Media Reporter Brian Stelter Discusses Digital Identity with Missouri Journalism Students

Columbia, Mo. (Nov. 8, 2013) — New York Times media reporter Brian Stelter visited campus Nov. 4-5 and spoke to hundreds of journalism students about the values of building an online brand and adapting to the demands of the rapidly changing journalism industry.

The Online News Association Mizzou and Mizzou Business Journalism Association sponsored Stelter’s visit with help from Randy Smith, the Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism.

Brian Stetler with ONA Mizzou Officers
ONA Mizzou officers pose for a photographer with the Times’ media reporter Brian Stetler during his two-day visit to the Missouri School of Journalism. Front, left to right: Stelter and Hannah Schmidt, treasurer. Rear, left to right: Amy Simons, faculty adviser; Andrew Gibson, president; Cole Kennedy, vice president; Elise Schmelzer, secretary; Bridgit Bowden, social media.

Judging from the number of activities Stelter participated in, few would guess he was only in Columbia for two full days. He guest lectured in several courses, co-hosted a lunchtime discussion with Bloomberg managing editor Jason Kelly, attended an editorial meeting at the Columbia Missourian and capped his visit by sharing his insights on digital identity and online entrepreneurship in front of a large audience in Fisher Auditorium.

“It was amazing to see how no matter what topic he was assigned to speak on – whether it be international journalism or bias in the media – he had something valuable to say,” said ONA Mizzou President Andrew Gibson.

Stelter was teeming with good advice for journalism students. The 28-year-old landed a job at the Times right out of college because of TVNewser, the blog he founded and ran while a student at Towson University. It quickly became a must-read for journalists covering TV news. His presentation in Fisher Auditorium focused on the strategies he used to build TVNewser into prominence, including adding a box where anyone could submit news tips.

“Thanks to that tip box, the readers were really generating all the material for the blog,” he said. “They were telling me what to cover. They were telling me what mattered to them. I was learning from them every day, and it became a great feedback loop.”

He also provided general tips, such as working to ensure you own the top 10 search results when people Google your name.

The ONA Mizzou student leaders were impressed by Stelter’s dedication to his job, even while he was away from New York. In the minimal time he had between guest lectures, he managed to write four stories for the Times. And the respect went both ways: Stelter said he was blown away by the diversity of questions he got from students.

“I’m struck by the fact that they’re always thinking about the right issues in journalism,” he told Missourian reporter Elise Moser in a preview of his main lecture. “Asking the right questions is one of the hardest things to do in journalism. And I think students sometimes have an edge over older reporters. They know what they don’t know.”

The campus visit was a huge boon for ONA Mizzou, which was founded in 2011 by students in a convergence journalism capstone course. The club has been steadily gaining membership and online prominence (its Twitter account recently surpassed 1,000 followers) since its inception. Stelter’s visit reinforces to Missouri School of Journalism students the values of joining a club that embraces digital journalism.

“I’m still amazed by how many of our students had the opportunity to hear Stelter speak, were able to ask him questions and learn from him,” said Amy Simons, assistant professor and ONA Mizzou adviser. “He was incredibly generous with his time, answering every question, granting every interview request and replying to every Tweet.”

In addition to working at the Times, Stelter is a fill-in host of CNN‘s “Reliable Sources” and the author of “Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV.” Missouri students and faculty might also recognize him from “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” a documentary featured at the 2011 True/False Film Festival.

For a recap of Stelter’s talk on digital identity and a full-length video of the lecture, visit the ONA Mizzou website.

Updated: July 21, 2020

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