Award-winning journalist graduates, gets job

Michael Meidenbauer
Degree: BA Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies.
Hometown: Delafield
It’s a fact: One of the hardest parts of his job as a journalist is “killing puppies,” says Meidenbauer. That’s the term he learned from Senior Journalism Lecturer Mark Zoromski to describe eliminating favorite parts of a story to focus on the essentials.

Michael Meidenbauer became an award-winning journalist before he earned his journalism degree.

His multimedia report on the impact of collective bargaining changes on one Milwaukee suburb, Shorewood, won top regional awards from both the Society of Professional Journalists and the Milwaukee Press Club.

That professional recognition is nice to have on the resume, he admits with a smile. Even better, he says, “it was great to be able to sell my homework.”

Meidenbauer originally developed the collective bargaining story as part of a journalism class assignment, repackaged it and was able to sell it as a freelance piece to Shorewood Patch, a community news website.

He says he chose UWM because he knew it had a strong journalism program. Multimedia classes in the Department of Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies (JAMS) helped prepare him for fulltime journalism. The award-winning story on Shorewood schools, for example, started as a project for Journalism and Media Studies 604, the advanced integrated reporting for journalism and documentary class. Journalism faculty, particularly senior lecturer Mark Zoromski, also taught him how to focus his stories by eliminating nonessential elements.

Although his focus area was print journalism, Meidenbauer embraces all the multimedia tools necessary to tell a story. “Sometimes, a quote may sound really dull in print, but when you use audio or video you can hear the texture of a voice or see the speaker’s passion, and it makes it come alive.”

Multimedia skills can help make young journalists more competitive and give them opportunities to move up, he adds. “With the way the internet works, there are great opportunities for telling compelling stories.”

The advantage of online publishing, he says, is that a well-designed news site lets people pick and choose how much or how little information they need about a topic. With multimedia storytelling, people can decide whether they want to read the story, view it or listen to it – or some combination of those approaches, he explains.

Unless everybody decides to always tell the truth, Meidenbauer adds, journalists will always be needed to challenge those trying to control the information flow. People will always need credible sources of information, no matter what tools journalists use.

“Ultimately what you want to do is tell stories in a way that’s informative and compelling and draws the audience in.”

That’s exactly what Meidenbauer has been doing for the Journal Sentinel’s MyCommunityNOW group of suburban papers since his sophomore year, freelance reporting from small towns and suburbs all over the area. He just accepted a job as the MyCommunityNOW North Shore reporter, starting in June.

Meidenbauer enjoys working in community news, noting that he received positive and negative comments about his story on the impact of collective-bargaining on Shorewood schools. Knowing that story fostered community dialog about the issue matters to him, as does the opportunity to talk with real people and local experts.

“When you do a report on a community issue, every single person you see on the street is somebody who could be affected by your story.”