Two Cornell seniors gain real-world experience writing article on campus speech

Christina Rueth ’16 and Clare McCarthy ’16 teamed up to investigate and research free speech for an article that will be published by the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism or IowaWatch on Tuesday, May 3.

Clare McCarthy
Clare McCarthy
Christina Rueth
Christina Rueth

IowaWatch is an independent, nonprofit news service dedicated to explanatory and investigative journalism.

The IowaWatch article was written by the two seniors who have interned with the organization. It is part of a series on speech on college campuses and focuses on how students, faculty, and administration are responding to the topic of campus speech.

“It was fairly nerve-racking to be writing about such a heated and intense topic on campus, particularly on a campus that is so small,” McCarthy said. “Friends of ours would say things about the situation as we were trying to remain completely unbiased and objective, and it was difficult at times to keep our own opinions out of the piece. I think we both learned a lot about writing about a controversial topic, and it was interesting to watch the shifts in campus climate and students’ attitudes over the course of writing the article.”

The two worked extensively on the article, interviewing many people and going through several editing sessions.

“It required a lot more work than I originally imagined in terms of getting a variety of voices, telling the complete story, and doing a thorough investigation into Cornell,” Rueth said. “In terms of working on the topic, it was very rewarding since we are talking about something very important, and it allowed voices to be heard that may not have been otherwise.”

English professor Shannon Reed worked with both students to help them land their IowaWatch internships, and she has taught both of them in class. Recently Reed invited the two to speak to her class about their work with IowaWatch. Reed’s English class is talking about the politics of the English language.

“Current students in my class, in response to the events earlier this block, agreed to focus their final projects on language and how it affects us, how it affects our discussions,” Professor Reed said. “They’re presenting that research on posters in the Commons on Tuesday, May 3, over lunch.”  

Reed said she is impressed with McCarthy and Rueth.

“Clare and Christina talk about learning a lot about writing,” Reed said. “But they have also learned about the importance of hearing different perspectives and representing those fairly. They have also now worked as professionals.”  

McCarthy said she knows it’s important to write about this topic because it is so controversial and can create tension.

“I think it is an issue that is important to address and important for people to discuss, because it not only involves Cornell’s campus, it relates to events happening all over the nation today,” McCarthy said.

Both Cornell seniors are thankful for the experience at IowaWatch saying it will open doors for them in the future.

“Professor Reed helped me get involved with IowaWatch, and I am so grateful that she told me about it and encouraged me to get into journalism,” McCarthy said. “I now have a passion for investigative journalism I never had before, and IowaWatch has taught me so mucheven in my time as a freelance writer.”

Rueth said her experience with IowaWatch and this internship shows professors really get to know students on a personal level.

“They really do care for their best interest and work to provide important career experiences such as this one for me at IowaWatch,” Rueth said. “Professor Reed was the one who really pushed for me to have this opportunity, and was our biggest supporter throughout the process of this story. Most importantly, she created an entire learning experience off of this news story, including speaking to a class and thinking more critically about the story’s impact on a larger scale.”

Rueth is just wrapping up an internship with IowaWatch. She is a senior from Saint Charles, Illinois, with majors in English and creative writing, as well as Spanish.

McCarthy was an intern for the organization during the summer of 2015 after receiving a Cornell Fellowship as the Kendig Fellow for Journalism. After wrapping up her official time at IowaWatch, she continued working as a freelance journalist on a few projects. McCarthy is an English and creative writing major from Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Both students will graduate on May 8.