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Pictured is Jill Thurston. Submitted photo

Meet Jill Thurston

Job Title & Employer
Front desk receptionist, Troy Orthodontics
Job Title & Employer
Freelance writer, Washington Observer-Reporter
Citizen Reporting Academy
Now Living In
Finleyville, Pa.
Hobbies & Interests
Creating family history books, reading, outdoor activities

"This program was just the right amount of time, taking five months to complete. The coursework is extremely relevant and presented in two-week modules that are self-paced."

Jill Thurston

What led you to enroll in Point Park’s Citizen Reporting Academy certificate program?

I've wanted to transition to my original field of journalism and communications, however, I knew I was lacking in areas that have developed in the industry since I graduated from Point Park. I've been fortunate to freelance for local newspapers over the years, but my full-time job is in a different field.

I heard Andrew Conte, assistant vice president and managing director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park, on a radio interview discussing his book "Death of the Daily News," and he mentioned there may be journalism and communication graduates out there who have left the field and would like to return. That caught my attention. I waited for nearly six months before I reached out to him by email. He told me about the Citizen Reporting Academy and explained the courses within the program would review skills I've learned in the past, plus cover new topics including social media use by journalists, marketing and monetizing, media literacy and more. This would be an opportunity to refresh my resume and I decided to enroll.

What have you learned in the Citizen Reporting Academy program?

We have covered so much ground in such a short amount of time. I’ve had the opportunity to review foundational skills and journalistic ethics.

Katie Green, deputy managing editor at Trib Total Media, gave excellent material on covering and writing about community meetings, which can often lead to other stories.

Joseph Lawrence, general counsel for Trib Total Media, taught a comprehensive and vital module on defamation and libel.

We delved into misinformation, disinformation and fake news, and gained a deeper understanding of how to identify each of these and how our role in the media calls for truth, transparency and accountability in order to be effective and trustworthy citizen reporters. In addition to traditional reporting, the program covers the changing landscape of social media, its effect on news gathering and its use as a tool for journalists.

What are the benefits of enrolling in this certificate program?

This program was just the right amount of time, taking five months to complete. The coursework is extremely relevant and presented in two-week modules that are self-paced.

Even if you are working in a full-time position, it is possible to keep up with the assignments. For those who would like to develop their newswriting skills, or refresh and add to what they learned in the past, this is an excellent program. For anyone interested in entering the reporting field as a citizen reporter, this unique program is the perfect opportunity to gain the necessary skills.

What are your goals as a citizen reporter?

My goal is to explore options in the communications field while continuing to freelance.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Andrew Conte and the others who developed this program have done an exceptional job of teaching important, complicated principles to people who care about what happens in their communities. They want to raise the level of trustworthy information available to the public as a response to the media desert that exists as more and more newspapers downsize or fold.

More About: faculty, School of Communication, School of Continuing and Professional Studies, journalism, Center for Media Innovation, Citizen Reporting Academy