Student Spotlight: Nathan Ferraro, Citizen Reporting Academy Online Certificate Program Student Profile
Meet Nathan Ferraro
- Citizen Reporting Academy
- High School
- Armstrong Junior/Senior High School
- Dream Job
- Political journalist or publication editor
- Hobbies & Interests
- Reading, writing, hiking, playing tennis, cooking and baking
"Where the academy excels is its instructors’ ability to provide insider knowledge and experience. Every single instructor is a professor or industry veteran ... The wide variety of the instructors’ backgrounds also produces a balanced, holistic understanding of citizen reporting."
As a current high school student, what led you to enroll in Point Park’s Citizen Reporting Academy certificate program?
I heard about it while volunteering at VA Pittsburgh last summer. My mentors there told me about it and encouraged me to apply. After communicating with Dr. Andrew Conte and several employees at the Trib, I applied to the program and for the Trib scholarship. I was granted the scholarship, and the rest is history.
I was so excited because I knew this program would be a perfect fit. In the summer of 2022, I served as a national youth correspondent at The Washington Journalism and Media Conference at George Mason University. That conference was one of the most stimulating, exciting journalistic experiences I’ve ever had. When I heard about the Citizen Reporting Academy, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about journalism and interact with other aspiring journalists, especially since my school does not have any journalism opportunities other than our newspaper.
The certification was also a major motivator for enrolling in the program. While the academy does not offer college credit, the citizen reporter certification will be an excellent way to prove my experience and assert my knowledge. I probably still would have applied if the certification wasn’t offered, but I think that aspect of the program will earn prestige and prove its worth. Once I become certified, I am excited to apply the knowledge I learned as a citizen reporting student in my community.
What have you learned in the program?
As the editor-in-chief of my school newspaper, The Hawks’ View, I am already familiar with many of the aspects and details taught in the certification course. The basics of reporting, interviewing and social media management are already areas I am proficient in.
The program is not so rudimentary that it teaches concepts such as how to write an article, but it does provide numerous lessons for those less learned to educate themselves in the field. Someone deeply involved in their community who wants to engage in citizen reporting to provide their neighbors with verified information — with no experience in the journalism field — would do just as well in this course as someone with five years of experience. I would encourage anyone interested in the program, no matter their background, to apply.
I learned the most from the Community Reporting course and the Media Ethics & the Law course because I have the least experience in those two areas. It’s no surprise that those are two of the courses I found the hardest. Covering a township commissioner meeting and analyzing libel and defamation court cases were two great ways that the instructors of those courses enabled me to dig deeper.
I’ve also learned about the importance of small-town journalism and independent reporters. Bridging the gap between news deserts — areas with no traditional media coverage — is a responsibility that we as citizen reporters are ready and eager to take on.
What are the benefits of enrolling in this certificate program?
Where the academy excels is its instructors’ ability to provide insider knowledge and experience. Every single instructor is a professor or industry veteran; no group is more qualified to teach the academy than the one that is teaching it currently. The wide variety of the instructors’ backgrounds also produces a balanced, holistic understanding of citizen reporting.
The instructors breathe life into the Citizen Reporting Academy and provide constructive feedback at every step of the way. A few courses even have two instructors, so there is always someone there to answer your questions and concerns.
Another incredible benefit of the program is the peers that join you for the journey. Each course has at least two discussion posts where you have the ability to communicate with your academy peers. I wasn’t originally aware that there would be so many opportunities for interaction with the other students, but I have grown more grateful for those as the courses have progressed. Exchanging ideas and talking with peers is one of the best ways to deepen understanding of a concept or subject.
What are your goals going forward as a citizen reporter?
My primary focus right now is leading The Hawks’ View, but as soon as May 17 arrives, my time there will be complete. Once school finishes, my goal is to establish a social media presence, communicate with my local newspaper and start reporting on local events and issues. I’m most interested in covering arts events and politics, but there are so many more issues that concern communities — another thing I’ve learned from the academy.
How will you apply what you learned?
I’m confident that my experience in the academy will allow me to produce quality material that will benefit my community. The lessons that I’ve learned will prepare me for reporting in the real world.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I would like to thank each and every one of the instructors so far for their guidance and dedication. It takes time and motivation to teach a group of around 20 people, even if each course is only two weeks long. I’m beyond grateful for the knowledge that I’ve learned.
I also want to thank Dr. Conte for his perseverance and enthusiasm for journalism and citizen reporting. He’s written books, such as Death of the Daily News (a great read for citizen reporters), he contributed to the founding of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park, and he contributed to the beginning of the Citizen Reporting Academy. It won’t be long before the effects of Conte’s efforts will be observed. His dedication is sure to leave a lasting mark on the local community and journalism field.
Lastly, I’d like to thank Trib Total Media for their scholarship to attend the program. Their eagerness to educate young and less-experienced journalists will not go unnoticed.