A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Journalism Education IN-BRIEF

By Quill

Student scoops media with Skakel letter

High school student Samanthia Ueckerman scooped reporters attempting to get prison interviews with Michael Skakel, the nephew of the late Robert F. Kennedy who was convicted in August for the 1975 beating death of Martha Moxley.

Ueckerman, a student at Newtown High School in Newton, Conn., wrote Skakel a letter to fulfill a journalism class assignment to interview someone and write a story. In early November, Ueckerman received a four-page, handwritten letter from Skakel. In the letter, Skakel wrote that he is innocent and discussed his unhappiness at the separation from his 3-year-old son, George.

Skakel was convicted in June of using a golf club to beat Moxley in Greenwich when they were 15-year-old neighbors. His aunt, Ethel, was married to Robert Kennedy.

Officials at the prison told Ueckerman that a face-to-face interview, if agreed to by Skakel, would take four months to get. She wrote a letter instead, asking about his son, religion, and what life was like in prison. She did not mention the crime.

“He mentions again that he does not talk to the press at all,” she said. “But since I’m as young as I am, I have more integrity than people who’ve been in journalism longer.”

U.T. may end photo-journalism program

The University of Texas may end its undergraduate photojournalism program to focus on graduate studies involving video and new media.

The school, the alma mater of a dozen Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers, says it has focused on the proposal because of news industry changes, especially the move toward online news. Fewer jobs are available for photojournalists taking only still pictures, according to Lorraine Branham, director of the university’s journalism school. She added that there are greater needs for those who also shoot video and edit digital images for Web sites and other media, and said the university cannot afford to keep the undergraduate program and expand the graduate program.

The undergraduate photojournalism program could end in the 2004-05 school year. It began in 1908, when the science and art of photography were taught by a physics professor. It remained in that department until 1951, when the journalism department took over.