Real-world experience can be critical in obtaining a job after graduating from college, and perhaps no industry demands evidence of qualifications more than the media. For the past 10 years, Joshua Maloni, BA’01, general manager and managing editor of Niagara Frontier Publications, has been offering students in NU’s communication and media studies department opportunities to build a portfolio of published work before they graduate.
Maloni, who earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Niagara before obtaining his master’s degree in magazine, newspaper and online journalism from the Newhouse School at Syracuse University, has been with Niagara Frontier Publications for 20 years. He has also been an adjunct professor in Niagara’s communication studies department since 2009.
Even before he was a student at Niagara, Maloni recognized the benefits of a byline. In high school, he had the opportunity to interview Olympian Summer Sanders after she had won a gold medal in swimming. He also pitched a story about his high school football team’s first win in eight years that USA Today published. Those experiences gave him an advantage when applying to colleges, he said.
At Niagara, Maloni continued to publish his work as both editor-in-chief of the Index, which was the third oldest college newspaper in the country at the time, and as founder and editor of a full-color magazine that spotlighted Niagara’s most interesting students and professors.
Now, he pays these vital experiences forward by creating opportunities for his students to become published writers before graduation, as well.
“I think it’s probably the most important thing that employers are looking for,” he said. “Proof that you’re able to do the work, proof that you’re able to generate content, build an audience, and work with social media.”
He noted that his desire to provide students with these opportunities “was something that I saw very much echoed when I came on board at Niagara University.”
“It is very important for our department that students be well-prepared going into internships so that, hopefully, they will be able to turn those internships into either paid freelance opportunities or into paid employment opportunities,” he said.
Maloni’s courses, Introduction to Media Studies and Specialty Journalism, cover the foundational principles of journalism, how to interview sources, and the relationship between the media, public relations, and marketing. Students write articles and hold a press conference as part of the curriculum, which culminates in their capstone project, an article on a topic of their choosing that will ultimately be published. The students are also required to share the article on social media to emphasize the idea that the work they do is intended to empower, educate, or entertain as broad an audience as possible.
Since this partnership between NU and NFP began, more than 250 student-written articles have been published on the NFP website and in its papers--the Niagara County Tribune/Sentinel and the Island Dispatch. Several students have interned with the organization before moving on to other successful careers in the industry, and three students were hired for editor positions after they graduated.
Lauren (Merrick) Zaepfel, BA’12, was one of those students. As an editor, she took on all the jobs necessary to publish a newspaper, including reporting, writing, editing, photography, design, and management, gaining more skills than at any other job she ever had, she said.
Today, she uses these skills on a daily basis as content marketing coordinator in the Daemen University marketing department, where she oversees The Voice, a weekly publication. The practical skills she learned in Maloni’s class, especially the use of Associated Press Style, as well as the real-world knowledge she acquired about the journalism and communications industry, make her a resource to her team about current industry standards, copywriting and editing, and more, she said.
Zaepfel added that the internships she completed while an undergraduate also provided her with valuable hands-on experience. As the editor-in-chief of the Niagara Index, with Maloni as advisor, she led a team of student reporters and learned how to write hard news, features, and magazine articles. She also obtained a web internship at CBS News in Manhattan, where she said she “learned from watching Katie Couric in action!”
“When interviewing for my position, my supervisor said right away that my experience with the Niagara Index made him want to choose me over the other candidates,” she said. “He explained how critical it is to know AP Style when writing and publishing news online. Interning for CBS was one of the best experiences of my life, and I was valued and seen as an asset by my superiors.”
Former NFP intern and freelance writer Courtney Corbetta, BA’15, went on to a career in broadcasting before returning to Niagara as assistant director of Alumni Engagement. This spring, she also returned to Maloni’s class to share her professional journey with his students.
“As an intern with Niagara Frontier Publications, I produced and hosted weekly news videos on NFP-TV. I also wrote articles for online and paper publications,” Corbetta said. “My time with NFP was my first professional experience interviewing, writing, and producing video content in the field. The skills I learned throughout my internship served as a resume builder and catalyst to obtaining my positions at Spectrum News Buffalo and WKBW-TV. Niagara University gave me the tools and taught me the skills to succeed. I quickly learned that connections are everything, and internships are essential to cultivating professional relationships in the industry.”
This summer, Maloni extended the opportunity to be published to students from Niagara Falls High School who were participating in an esports summer camp through the university’s Levesque Center for Civic Engagement. He offered them an abbreviated version of his course, which included holding a press conference on the university’s esports program.
Because of the increased use of social media, having published work is even more critical when pursuing a career in media, Maloni noted.
“There’s more competition for jobs because social media gives everybody a platform to share news and information,” he said. “So anything that the students can have as far as building and bolstering their resume is going to put them one step ahead.”