University of Alaska Student Journalists to Report From Iraq

Students will produce daily stories and first-person accounts from Iraq's Diyala Province.

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If you go to college to study journalism like your favorite Paper Trail bloggers did, you hear a lot of emphasis on internships and real-life experience. That, advisers will tell you, is exactly what employers are looking for in prospective reporters. Well, how does being embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq for a few weeks sound for experience?

Three University of Alaska journalism students and their professor are headed to Iraq this week, the Chronicle of Higher Ed reports. They'll be embedded with an Alaskan-based Army Stryker Brigade combat team and write daily reports. They'll also update and maintain a blog, Short Timers, and regularly post first-person accounts on Facebook.

The students—Jennifer Canfield, Tom Hewitt, and Jessica Hoffman—were selected from a 12 applicants. The professor leading them, Brian Patrick O'Donoghue, is the chair of the university's journalism department.

University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton, a 31-year Army veteran, originally approached journalism students with the idea, and the receptive students pushed O'Donoghue to make the trip happen. O'Donoghue put together a trip proposal, and it was met with enthusiasm and support from Hamilton and Army officers.

O'Donoghue said that financing the trip, which will cost around $35,000, wasn't hard, thanks to Hamilton's support. The quartet will use the funding to pay for equipment, travel, and insurance. They had to sign liability forms and read stories about journalists who were killed in Iraq. But none of those issues were enough to prevent the trip from happening.

"If this had initiated within the [journalism] department, it's likely we would have hit a lot more barriers than having it initiated by the president of the university," O'Donoghue told the Chronicle. "Right from the beginning, everybody was in a problem-solving mode for this."

The students' articles will appear in the University of Alaska's student newspaper, the Sun-Star, as well as other publications.