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A journalist’s legacy

For UW-Eau Claire senior journalism major NICK ERICKSON, receiving the 2014 Ann Devroy Memorial Fellowship provides an opportunity to emulate the tenacious White House reporter for whom the award is named.

“I know Ann Devroy was the type of reporter who would do whatever it takes and at all costs,” Erickson said. “It’s up to us to get the news out to people and inspire hope and responsibility. I truly believe journalism is one of the most important professional fields there is.”

Erickson is the 17th UW-Eau Claire journalism student to receive the annual fellowship, which includes a three-week residency at The Washington Post and a paid summer internship at a Wisconsin newspaper. Many past recipients consider the fellowship to be the single most transformative part of their college experience. Others say it solidified their career path and prepared them for what was to come in the workplace.

We caught up with Devroy Fellows from years past and share updates on their lives and careers, beginning with the very first recipient.

1998 | Chris Carr

Deputy sports editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Chris Carr oversees the Star Tribune’s daily sports coverage with an extra focus on college sports. He started out in sports at the Star Tribune, then worked in design, then design leadership and moved back to sports this year in his new role as deputy sports editor.

While he was news design leader, his design team won more than 30 international design awards. The sports staff is routinely cited for producing one of the top 10 sections in the country by peers (Associated Press Sports Editors).

Carr says UW-Eau Claire’s journalism faculty encouraged him to do his best.

“The professors at UW-Eau Claire drilled home the importance of hard work, real-world experiences, and being professional and trustworthy. They inspired me to do what I am doing today.”

Carr says he has had a picture of Ann Devroy on his desk since he won the fellowship in 1998.

“She has been a motivator and an inspiration for me, and I often think about how much of an influence her life has had on mine.”

1999 | Steve Hyden

Music critic/writer for Grantland

Steve Hyden has been a music fan all his life. He wrote about music for his junior high newspaper and remembers his first two record reviews like it was yesterday: He gave “Automatic for the People” by R.E.M. an A; “Dirt” by Alice in Chains earned a B+. He also was a teen columnist for his hometown newspaper, the Appleton Post-Crescent, for three years, earning $10 a column — his first paying job.

He now writes for Grantland, a popular sports and pop-culture blog started by sports journalist Bill Simmons and affiliated with ESPN. He also has written for Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Slate and Salon.com.

While writing for the entertainment website The A.V. Club, a division of The Onion, Hyden produced a series of articles about alternative music in the 1990s, which in 2011 was turned into an e-book titled “Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?” with the subtitle “One man’s year-by-year journey into ‘90s rock.” He currently is working on a book of essays to be released in 2016.

2000 | Lori Kurtzman

Reporter for The Columbus Dispatch

Lori Kurtzman says what she enjoys most about her job is being able to tell people’s stories.

“I write about people trying to change the world or cope with what life has handed them,” Kurtzman said. “One of my favorite stories in the past year, believe it or not, was about a woman who legally changed her first name to ‘Sexy.’ That news went global.”

She says her journalism degree and work with the student newspaper, The Spectator, set her up for a real-world job. The Devroy Fellowship gave her a boost of confidence and a shot of adrenaline.

“It gave me a peek into a huge, exciting newsroom and made me realize this journalism thing was real and possible.”

2001 | Leah (Thorsen) Woodbury

Reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Leah (Thorsen) Woodbury was part of the Post-Dispatch team that was a finalist in the Breaking News Reporting category of the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes for the newspaper’s coverage of the 2008 Kirkwood (Mo.) City Hall shootings, which left six people dead.

Woodbury says she loves the variety of her beat.

“I write about crime, courts, lead pollution, government and everything in between.”

Woodbury interned at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel for seven months as part of the Devroy Fellowship after graduating from UW-Eau Claire in 2002. She also worked at the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star prior to joining the Post-Dispatch staff in 2005.

“My education prepared me for the work I did as an intern, and eventually as a staff writer, because I was able to cover daily news and develop enterprise stories. Reporters must be able to do both effectively.”

2002 | Tim Ruzek

Communications representative for public relations and development at the University of Minnesota’s Hormel Institute

Tim Ruzek’s duties at The Hormel Institute range from writing news releases and social media content to event planning and communicating with donors. He says he enjoys working toward raising support for and awareness about the world-class cancer research conducted at the institute.

“Cancer has affected my life and my friends’ lives in many ways, so my job has special meaning to me. I get to be part of a wide variety of events that are a lot of fun but also have many meaningful moments.”

Ruzek served in a number of roles while working at The Spectator, including as entertainment editor, news editor, chief copy editor and editor in chief.

“My experience as a Devroy Fellow cemented my interest in entering the newspaper industry. I felt very confident in my journalism skills and background upon graduating from UW-Eau Claire and seeking full-time employment as a newspaper reporter.”

After working for a period of time as a reporter for the Austin (Minn.) Post-Bulletin, where he typically cranked out 12 to 20 bylines a week, Ruzek said he felt burned out but wanted to remain in his hometown. The new PR position created at The Hormel Institute came along at just the right time, and Ruzek says he’s never regretted making the move.

2003 | Kelly (McBride) Moore

Coordinator of media relations and video/audio news at UW-Green Bay

Kelly (McBride) Moore serves as UW-Green Bay’s media liaison; writes news releases, tip sheets and stories for the university’s website, alumni magazine and other publications; and manages the news Facebook and Twitter accounts. She also shoots, produces and edits news videos for use online and on social media.

“My job allows me to incorporate so much of what I love about journalism — written and visual storytelling, interacting with new people and working with the news media, to name a few — and use it to advocate for higher education generally and the UW System and UW-Green Bay specifically.”

Moore says her journalism degree helped her learn the fundamentals while providing a variety of opportunities to practice her craft.

“Beyond the classroom, the faculty and broader department introduced me to a host of experiences I would ultimately use to launch my career, including work on The Spectator, an internship at the Eau Claire Leader-Telegram and, most significantly, the Devroy Fellowship and related opportunities. The fellowship landed me my summer 2004 internship at the Green Bay Press-Gazette.”

Later, hired as education reporter by the Press-Gazette, Moore established UW-Green Bay connections that ultimately led her to her current job at the university.

2004 | Gina Duwe

Reporter/wire editor for the Janesville Gazette

Gina Duwe reports on several small communities around Janesville, covering everything from school districts and city government to features and breaking news. She also works occasional shifts as the wire editor and is a member of the newsroom’s social media committee. She has received several Wisconsin Newspaper Association awards.

“I enjoy being able to keep residents up to date on the latest news in their communities and sharing stories that might not otherwise be told. Being a reporter can also have some perks like being the first to find out about big news and having fun assignments like going up in a hot air balloon or flying across a frozen lake in an ice boat. It’s always something different every day.”

Duwe said getting real-world experience as a student was crucial to getting a job in the journalism field.

“My journalism degree taught me the basics of what journalism is all about, and I was able to apply that knowledge during seven semesters at The Spectator, where I worked as managing editor and editor in chief.”

2005 | DJ Slater

Executive editor for Diesel & Gas Turbine Publications

DJ Slater oversees two publications: Diesel & Gas Turbine Worldwide and CompressorTech2. He writes and edits stories and maintains relationships with companies in the field. His job includes traveling across the United States and internationally for story assignments, advertising sales and trade shows.

“While many people think a journalism degree is only applicable to newspaper jobs, I can easily attest that it opens many doors. The skill sets — handling deadline pressure, critical thinking, communication, editing, writing, uncovering stories, news judgment — are valuable assets in nearly any line of work.”

Slater said the Devroy Fellowship offers recipients more than just a great opportunity.

“It offers perspective, and that’s something you can’t get by simply reading about it. It has to be experienced to be fully comprehended and appreciated. That’s what I took away from it, and it’s kept me grounded and grateful to be a part of a profession I love.”

2006 | Sara Boyd

Web producer for WCCO-TV, Minneapolis

Sara Boyd writes and produces stories for WCCO.com, ranging from breaking news and news of the day to entertainment features, including theater/concert reviews and restaurant profiles.

“Beyond the features, covering breaking news is always exhilarating, especially in the fast-paced world of broadcast news and the up-to-the-minute realm of the Internet. In my time at ‘CCO, I’ve received the Doar Award, an honor bestowed upon an employee from fellow co-workers. It’s given quarterly to an employee nominated by another for going above and beyond their daily duties. It’s a huge honor indeed.”

Boyd said the Devroy Fellowship solidified her career path.

“It showed me there really was nothing else I wanted to do. It gave me the confidence to enter this field with an understanding of where I could take it and how important the work truly was.”

2007 | Nick Halter

Reporter for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Nick Halter writes about retail and sports business.

“That means I cover big companies like Target and Best Buy, smaller retailers, Mall of America and local sports teams, including the Vikings, Twins, Wild and Timberwolves.”

He also handles broadcast duties for the Business Journal, making a weekly TV appearance on Fox 9 morning news and reporting a daily story for WCCO morning radio.

“The Devroy Fellowship was the best thing that happened in my journalism career. Having the fellowship on my resume got me a foot in the door. I was lucky to get the opportunity, and I have run with it ever since.”

2008 | Janie Boschma

Reporter and research assistant at the National Journal, Washington, D.C.

As research assistant to editorial director (and Pulitzer finalist) Ronald Brownstein, Janie Boschma is part of the team reporting for the Next America project — tracking demographic changes across the country and how communities are adapting.

“I love the stories we’re able to pull out of data and the perspective we’re able to provide on a certain issue or policy trend, especially when we compare the data going back decades.”

Boschma said the Devroy Fellowship forced her to think bigger and hold herself to a higher standard.

“How could I ever live up to Ann’s legacy? I felt like I owed it to her, to myself and to the greater public to do something meaningful and to tell difficult stories — and the stories that matter to real people. I remember coming back to Eau Claire with a renewed sense of purpose, a new appreciation for telling the stories of real people and a healthy dose of skepticism — all things Ann would have encouraged herself had I been able to meet her.”

2009 | McLean Bennett

Sports writer for the Sheboygan Press

McLean Bennett is in regular contact with area high school coaches and writes articles rounding up multiple sporting events involving schools around Sheboygan County. He’s also had an opportunity to cover a few professional sporting events, including the NASCAR Nationwide Series, which visits Sheboygan County every summer, and the U.S. Women’s Open Golf Championship.

“My journalism major fostered a working knowledge of a real-life newsroom and gave me a basic skill set from which to build a career. The Devroy Fellowship provided a bit of motivation to continue on this career path and enabled me to build a strong resume even before I graduated.”

2012 | Taylor Kuether

Campus communications associate for the Feminist Majority Foundation

Taylor Kuether handles all media for the Feminist Campus website; assigns, writes and edits content; writes daily news pieces for the news wire; attends and covers relevant events, including press conferences, rallies, Senate hearings and Supreme Court decisions; and travels at least once a month to work with college groups on women’s issues.

“I adore my job. It balances the three things I love most: journalism and communications; women’s issues and social justice work; and travel. I’m also really lucky to be living and working in Washington, D.C. It was my dream to move here, and now that’s a reality.”

Kuether says the Devroy Fellowship helped her realize exactly what she wanted to do with her journalism degree.

“Ann Devroy — the kind of reporter she was and the kind of stories she pursued — influenced my desire to use my journalism skills for social justice work. Making Ann proud is certainly something that has guided my decisions, and I don’t think that will ever change. I owe a lot to her and to the people who made this fellowship happen for me.”

The fellowship

Ann Devroy had a reputation for being a tough, competitive and fair reporter. The 1970 UW-Eau Claire journalism graduate was a White House correspondent for 15 years, first for Gannett News Service and then for The Washington Post. She was respected by her colleagues as well as the politicians she covered and continues to be a role model for the generations of journalists who have followed in her path.

After Devroy died of cancer in 1997, her family members, friends and colleagues honored her by establishing a fellowship and forum in her name at UW-Eau Claire. The Ann Devroy Memorial Fellowship, awarded through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, is presented annually to a UW-Eau Claire journalism student who shows exceptional promise and ability. The fellowship includes a three-week residency at The Washington Post, a $2,500 scholarship to offset the costs of the residency and a paid summer internship at a Wisconsin newspaper.

2013 | Rachel Minske

Completed Devroy Fellowship as a multimedia news intern with the Green Bay Press-Gazette in August

Rachel Minske reported on issues and events impacting the Fox Valley, shooting video, taking photos and writing print stories. She also had opportunities to write for the sports, food, lifestyle and business sections of the newspaper and often covered the Green Bay Packers.

Minske said she experienced a number of career-enhancing opportunities while pursuing her journalism degree.

“I traveled to Moldova alongside journalism professor Jan Larson and other students to learn about reporting internationally. During the Civil Rights Pilgrimage I reported on segregation issues still impacting the United States today.”

The Devroy Fellowship introduced Minske to the work of video journalists.

“Prior to the fellowship I dreamed of someday working professionally in TV journalism, but my experiences at The Washington Post led me to believe a career in online media could be equally, if not more, rewarding.”

The View was unable to connect with two of the Devroy Fellowship recipients: Breann Schossow, 2010; and Frank Pellegrino, 2011.