Don’t miss 13th annual Journalism Boot Camp

Michael Gennaro

North Bureau Chief

Broward College’s 13th annual journalism boot camp takes place Friday, Feb 1. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Tigertail Lake Recreation Center.

2019’s lineup includes Sun-Sentinel reporters Tonya Alanez and Brittany Wallman; Sun-Sentinel photographer Joe Cavaretta; Marielle Kunhardt from Pierson Grant Public Relations; Christine DiMattei, an anchor at WLRN; as well as a feature panel of numerous journalists from a myriad of mediums.

Jennifer Shapiro, Coordinator for Student Publications at Broward College, has been putting the boot camp on for 13 straight years now.

“I first started the boot camp after I attended a national journalism conference and there was a workshop on starting a boot camp for journalism, which I attended,” Shapiro said. “I thought it was a great idea and have been doing it ever since for 13 years.”

Students will have the opportunity to get their work critiqued by journalists like Alanez and Wallman, as well as network with other reporters and people in the media business.

“I always have the critique sessions because I think it is important for the student journalists to be able to see how they can improve their work and learn from professionals in the field,” Shapiro explained.

Brittany Wallman, the long-time reporter with The Sun-Sentinel, has participated in every iteration of the boot camp, and she sees it as a unique opportunity to encourage younger journalists. “I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to work with journalists when I was in college,” Wallman said. “There are so many challenges in this business right now, but I like to encourage people to become journalists if their hearts are in it. Mainly, I love sharing what a rewarding, fun and interesting job it is to be a journalist.”

Christine DiMattei, a news anchor for WLRN who is participating for the first time, advises any student that wishes to work in media to take advantage of this and other opportunities to network.

“As in any industry, it’s important for budding journalists to grab every networking opportunity available,” DiMattei said. “I advise them to make direct contact with reporters and broadcasters they admire and ask for guidance in the media field. I don’t think I could have come this far without the support and encouragement of some very dedicated reporters, editors, producers and anchors.”

Like Wallman, DiMattei thinks it is important to pass down her knowledge to the younger generation.

“Enhanced technology has dramatically altered the way people consume news and the way we deliver it; the entire newsroom culture has changed as a result,” DiMattei said. “But no matter how much certain media reinvent themselves, there are still certain basics that remain unchanged; journalistic ethics, reporter best practices, proper interview protocol, protection of sources, etc. I’ve noticed that the best journalists pass these down to younger generations of reporters almost like parents bestowing a priceless legacy upon their children. It’s always a pleasure when I can follow their example.”

Shapiro aims to teach budding journalists those “certain basics” that DiMattei spoke about. Shapiro has watched students under who tutelage prosper in the media world as interns and, eventually, full-time employees.

“A few years ago, at the boot camp, because she networked, one of the students got an internship with Ocean Drive Magazine, an opportunity she may not have had if she didn’t meet Julia Ford-Carther at the boot camp. The experience and clips she got form the internship were priceless,” Shapiro explained.

The boot camp isn’t just centered around traditional journalism, however. Marielle Kunhardt of Pierson Grant Public Relations will be participating this year as well, and she has some of the same motivations for participating as Wallman and DiMattei.

“My college education has been critical to the success of my career,” Kunhardt said. “In college, I always appreciated guest lectures and other interactions with real-life communications professionals, and I’m happy to pay that forward now. Also, as much as the field of public relations has advanced, there are still many misconceptions about it as a business function and as a career path. I feel that the more I can educate others about public relations, the better off we all will be.”

“It is important to stay on top of current trends to keep your skill set relevant and having a wide field of contacts can only help you in your career journey,” Kunhardt explained.

As the Coordinator for Student Publications at Broward College, Shapiro is also in charge of The Observer, Broward College’s twice-monthly student newspaper. She encourages any student with an interest in journalism to attend the boot camp, along with Observer meetings and workshops.

“This semester, some of the workshops will feature an FIU and UF information session on their journalism programs, Lauren Fyke, public relations representative for JM Family Enterprises, Inc, among others,” Shapiro said.

Any student interested in attending the boot camp or any Observer workshop sessions should email Shapiro at for further information.

Any student interested in attending the boot camp or any Observer workshop sessions should email Shapiro at for further information.

Photo: The features writing panel from the 2017 boot camp, from left to right, Carlos Frias from the Palm Beach Post, Marian Liu from, Gretchen Day Bryant from the Sun-Sentinel, Talia J. Medina from, and Melvin Felix from Univsion Noticias. Courtesy Staff/The Observer