Q&A with Cassidy Alexander, 2016 Scholarship Winner and Board Member
When SPJ Florida asked a college junior where she saw herself in a few years, she told us it would be working for a publication that utilizes her visual storytelling skills and gives her the opportunity to learn about investigative journalism.
Three years later, Cassidy Alexander is doing just that.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal education reporter has come a long way since winning SPJ Florida’s College Scholarship in 2016. At the time, she served as the editor-in-chief for Spinnaker, the University of North Florida’s student publication. Now, Alexander covers the Volusia County school district — which is the geographic size of Rhode Island and boasts a $1 billion budget — while also serving as a director on our board.
We caught up with Alexander to ask her about her career and how winning the scholarship set her up for success:
When did you know you wanted to get into journalism?
I came to journalism slowly. I wanted to be a writer when I was a kid, then I fell into writing columns for a long time in college, before I finally found a love of reporting news. Every story that I chased in high school and college solidified it for me a little bit more.
How did winning the SPJ Florida College Scholarship help you?
Winning the scholarship helped me because I got to worry just a little bit less about money, and a little bit more about getting experience. Journalism is a difficult field because you can only learn the skills by practicing them, but there’s rarely money to pay the college intern. Scholarships like this provided me the flexibility to pay my bills and get the clips I needed at the same time.
Tell us about your involvement with SPJ Florida over the years.
Pretty much everything good that happened to me as a student journalist — from learning how to write a good lead, to getting my first internship — happened because someone took the time out of their lives to care about me a little bit and teach me something. Joining SPJ was the natural way to pay it forward after I graduated. Now I’m able to help give out scholarships to students, organize events and trainings for my peers and generally share resources under the organization’s umbrella.
What advice would you give to other young journalists?
My advice to other young journalists is to learn how to write a good lead and nut graf very early on. Read as much news as you can. Find a group of other young journalists that you can vent to and who will edit your first drafts for you. And don’t be afraid to ask for help.