Story by Polly Irungu, photos courtesy of Judy Holtz
When Judy Holtz, BA ’16, began taking journalism classes at the SOJC, she had a good eye for photography but wasn't quite sure what she wanted to do with her life. Once she started learning more about multimedia journalism and saw the work her peers were producing, however, she was off and running on her own creative path.
Holtz is intrigued by not only the stories she reads, hears and watches, but also those she gets to tell. But it’s more than just a calling — it’s a life purpose. Her passion has led her to bring a broad range of social issues and cultural experiences to the attention of a variety of audiences.
We sat down with Holtz to find out how the SOJC helped her find and start her career as a multimedia journalist.
What made you decide to become to multimedia journalist?
As a recent UO graduate with degrees in both journalism and Italian, I am proud to call myself a Duck. But my track at the SOJC helped me gain the skills necessary to pursue my passions, and my interest for multimedia storytelling blossomed because I am drawn to long-form, narrative-driven storytelling that enlightens others about social issues.
I began my journey to becoming a multimedia journalist through photography and eased into video production after the Gateway series. As I entered my summer 2014 Gateway classes, I was nervous because I needed to find a path or direction to follow. This path immediately became clear to me due in large part to the incredible Lisa Heyamoto and Ed Madison. The passion they had for journalism helped guide me to pursue my creative path. While following the Super-J track, I was intrigued also by the innovative video production work of my peers.
One skill I learned in the SOJC was how to lose my fear of talking to strangers and gain the simple understanding that everybody loves to talk about themselves. I exercised this skill while studying abroad in Lecce, Italy, last summer. Pushing myself to speak to strangers about their passions and opinions in a foreign language opened my eyes to how multimedia storytelling could create a global conversation. Around the dinner table or in my classrooms, I would ask about opinions on the American government or the refugee crisis. These conversations told me that multimedia storytelling has a longer reach than I anticipated.
Did you have any experiences in the SOJC that were particularly transformative?
I don’t think I appreciated it as much as a I should have when I was in school, but looking back on the last five years makes me realize that there was much more to my experience than just going to class.
I learned quickly, and within six months I had become a multimedia producer for OR Magazine, an innovative, student produced, digital publication housed in the SOJC. The Spring 2015 issue won the Gold Crown Award, the Columbia Scholastic Press Association’s highest honor. I became the publication’s photo editor in the spring.
One of my fondest memories of OR Magazine was my story on a Pendleton Round-Up princess, Emily Jayne Sorey, called “Raised in Rodeo.” After weeks of prepping for the shoot, my team and I headed east on a five hour drive to Pendleton. Following our subject from morning to night allowed me to understand the effort it takes to produce a documentary-style piece. From learning about wireless microphones to capturing those “in between” moments, I felt this trip opened my mind and heart to the professional world of multimedia storytelling.
Also this past spring, I got two more amazing opportunities with the help of faculty at the SOJC. At Newsroom U, a multimedia weekend event in Washington D.C., I produced three video pieces about millennial voters and their views on the presidential election. The piece I was proudest of focused on the issue of sexual assault on college campuses. I interviewed a survivor who is worried about the future of the It’s On Us campaign and how she has served as an advocate.Finally, I was a participant on the inaugural #SuperJinNYC trip, which gave me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit 16 publications over the course of a week. This trip allowed me to gain insight into the industry from the individuals who help shape it, and I realized what an incredible cohort of individuals I was surrounded by at the SOJC.
Andrew DeVigal gave our group the experience of spending hours in The New York Times. I was particularly inspired by the creativity of its video department and how collaboration is an integral part of their workflow. I was also so impressed by the level of questioning that myself and my peers were asking. At the end of the #SuperJinNYC trip, I think we were all confident not only in our own abilities, but also that the SOJC had prepared us all to succeed as a cohort. Getting to travel with my fellow peers and speak one on one with industry leaders is something I will never forget.
What have you been doing since graduation?
I’m working in the UO Central Communications office as a video production assistant. This position has allowed me to gain professional experience with several departments across campus. I am able to use professional equipment on a daily basis and use my creativity to produce projects I am passionate about.
The latest piece I assisted on was an alumni video featuring Rio Olympics 200-meter qualifier Jenna Prandini. This by far was my favorite piece, from the interview to the 7 a.m. video shoot on historic Hayward Field to tying up the whole thing with an edit I am proud of. This project gave me the push I needed to know that multimedia production and storytelling is where my heart lies.I am excited to see where my path leads next as I look for my next opportunity for growth. As I look back, I know that the tools and experiences I gained in the SOJC will ensure a bright future.
Polly Irungu is a multimedia journalist and social media strategist who plans to graduate from the SOJC with a degree in journalism this fall. She is currently working as a digital content creator for the SOJC’s Communications team, a campus editor-at-large at The Huffington Post and a freelance production assistant for the PAC-12 Networks, and she’s also been published on CNN, KVAL and YesJulz. A National Association of Black Journalists fellow in 2015 and 2016, she participated in the NABJ and National Association of Hispanic Journalists student newsroom to provide coverage of their historic joint convention for NABJ Monitor and Latino Reporter. She also worked in the Online News Association’s student newsroom Sept. 15-17, 2016. Previously, she has worked for TrackTown USA, Def Jam Records, Dell and Adobe. She made the 2013 and 2014 Daily Emerald Ducks Who Will Change the World list, and in May 2015, she was named the Women4Africa International Young Achiever of the Year. You can view her work at www.pollyirungu.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @pollyirungu.