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Dynamic journalism duo follow each others footsteps

The Claremont COURIER is home to a young journalism power couple, interns Kellen Browning and Meghan Bobrowsky, both just 19. The talented Claremont Colleges students joined the staff last fall and this month, respectively.

They met at Davis High School in Davis, a suburb of Sacramento, where they both worked on the school newspaper, The Hub. Mr. Browning’s work as a senior at the student publication landed him the prestigious 2016 Journalist of the Year award from the Journalism Education Association, honoring the nation’s top high school news writer.

Ms. Bobrowsky—not to be outdone by her boyfriend—turned around and won the same award the following year, al

so as a senior. Now a freshman at Scripps College, her major is politics. Mr. Browning, a Pomona College sophomore, is undeclared, but says he’ll likely also end up as a politics major. Surprisingly, none of Claremont’s five undergraduate universities—Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd or Pitzer—offer a journalism major.

As far as writing goes, Ms. Bobrowsky’s passion is for investigative pieces about budgets and monetary concerns, while Mr. Browning is drawn to the adrenaline of breaking “spot” news. Along with their COURIER beats, they are both on the staff of the Colleges’ The Student Life, where this semester she is the newspaper’s life and style editor, and he serves as managing editor for news and sports.

They are both the first journalists in their families. Ms. Bobrowsky got the bug after taking a class at Davis High and attending a summer workshop. In a perfect world, she would work in both print and video.

“I really like video journalism,” she said. “I’ve applied for a couple of internships this summer, and it’s definitely something I’m interested in pursuing. But, that being said, I am still interested in writing. If there was a way to combine both of those mediums, that would be the goal.”

Mr. Browning has been on the journalism track for some time, even gaining early insight into the high finance end of the business.

“In third grade, I helped create a school newspaper,” he said. “We put out an issue, took all the money we got from it—I think it was $9—and donated it to the computer lab and told them to get better [video] games.”

Despite this promising start, his path wasn’t clear until his junior year at Davis High. There, he and another Hub writer, Grace Richey, co-wrote a story about the school’s lack of an indoor lunch space, and how this was affecting students with disabilities. The local school board took note, and ended up approving construction of a new building, which opened last month.

“It was interesting, and it was a good story, but I don’t think we ever expected it would come to anything. So that was really amazing, and it was really an honor to see that our work had such an impact,”?Mr. Browning said.

The Journalism Education Association agreed, awarding the pair its 2015 Student Impact Award.

“I think that was really what sparked my interest in doing this as a career,” Mr. Browning said. 

After Mr. Browning set out for Pomona College in fall of 2016, the couple mantained a long distance relationship while Ms. Bobrowsky finished her senior year. She moved to Claremont last August to begin her studies at Scripps.

“It reminds me a lot of Davis, just having the college town, the campus, and being able to walk downtown,” she said. “That’s something that’s really nice about Davis, and it’s something that’s really nice about living here.”

Though nearly twice the size, with about 65,000 residents to Claremont’s roughly 36,000, the cities do share some commonalities: Like Claremont, Davis’ largest employer is a college, UC Davis, and its leafy downtown area bears more than a passing resemblance to our own Village.

“Yeah that’s true,” Mr. Browning said. “It’s a college town and it’s well educated. I think they are very similar places. That’s definitely part of the reason I decided to come here. It feels nice and comforting and familiar.”

Ms. Bobrowsky’s father was skeptical about his daughter’s desire to pursue journalism, she said, expresssing concerns th

at the traditional newspaper business is struggling.

“He wasn’t really discouraging me,” she said. “But he was just like, ‘You’re not going to make a lot of money.’”

Her father, an insurance fraud investigator, eventually came around to support her decision.

“He sees that we have similar goals in our jobs: we’re both investigating and trying to figure out and tell the truth, so we were able to bond in that way. Our professions are both about trying find the truth.”

As print journalism works to maintain its footing in the digital world, mid-sized dailies have been consolidating and, in some cases, calling it quits. This less-than-rosy financial picture, combined with the arrival of the phrase “fake news,” hasn’t exactly helped boost the appeal of journalism among the current crop of college students. Thankfully, for us here in Claremont, college interns seem to be the exception to that rule.

“I don’t think journalism is dying, I think it’s just changing,” Mr. Browning said. “Local journalism is still really important. As for the perception of, ‘journalists are fake news’ and all that, it just means we have to be even more accountable, more transparent, and more objective in our reporting. It’s clear to me that journalism is more important than ever, keeping people in power in check, and telling people what’s going on.”

—Mick Rhodes

mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com