The Ramapo College of New Jersey has published a student-run newspaper continuously since the autumn of 1971, one year after classes first began at the then-new institution. Nearly 50 years later, the paper’s newsroom has played host to countless Roadrunners. The current staff of the Ramapo News is reaching out to past student editors to learn how working on a campus publication readied them for life in the journalism industry.
Rebecca King graduated Ramapo’s Communication Arts program in 2015 with a concentration in journalism and two minors, one in theater and the other in literature. She quickly found employment as a reporter and graphic artist at the Press of Atlantic City, becoming an associate editor of the paper’s two weekly entertainment publications before leaving.
King now serves as the Bergen Record’s food and dining reporter, profiling local chefs and restaurants in addition to managing northjersey.com’s popular North Jersey Eats Instagram account. Work at the Ramapo News gave her an edge in the job market, she claims.
“The paper is the closest thing you can get to a real-life experience while at Ramapo,” said King.
“Meeting deadlines, meeting your word count and reporting regularly: These are things you’re not going to get in a classroom and you are going to get at the Ramapo News.”
King joined the paper during her first semester at Ramapo College, contributing as a volunteer. When a position opened later that year, she successfully applied and began work as the publication’s arts & entertainment editor. She later became news editor and graduated as editor-in-chief.
The Ramapo News’s technical advisor, Dan Sforza, is the editor of the Bergen Record. King believes her time at the College’s paper demonstrated her capability to Sforza before she walked into her job interview.
“I felt I had less to prove because he already knew my work ethic,” King said, “He knew what I could write.”
King believes journalism students must practice the fundamentals of their craft before graduation, and work at a student publication facilitates that.
“When you’re out in the real world getting your first job, you should be past cutting your teeth,” said King.
Another 2015 graduate with a concentration in journalism, Laura French, worked as the web editor for the Ramapo News during her third and fourth years at the College. In addition to maintaining the paper’s website, French managed its social media accounts, oversaw a team of student copy editors and conducted reporting. Her 2014 story detailing the backlash to a so-called “rape face” presentation delivered at Ramapo was referenced by outlets including Jezebel, Bustle and Cosmopolitan UK.
“I’m definitely glad I worked at the Ramapo News,” said French, “It’s one of the most important things I did during my time at Ramapo.”
Her work as a student editor left her with a “diverse portfolio of news, entertainment and opinion pieces” to show prospective employers.
French is now the associate editor of Forensic Magazine, a quarterly print publication and website based in Rockaway, New Jersey. Her current job mirrors her old responsibilities.
“I put together the daily newsletter, place articles online and manage social media much like I did at the Ramapo News,” she said.
Anthony Zurita actively wrote as a Ramapo News staff writer for two years before joining the newsroom full-time as its Viewpoints editor. He graduated as editor-in-chief in 2018.
The Ramapo News taught Zurita to work as a team player. He learned to thrive on the newsroom’s atmosphere:
“There are a bunch of creative minds in a room,” he said, “And if you’re closeminded about where good ideas come from – that they can only come from you and not someone else – then you’re putting a cap on your creative level.”
Zurita covers seven towns as a municipal reporter at the Bergen Record. The Record’s newsroom is like Ramapo’s, he says, but on a much larger scale.
“We’re brainstorming just like we did in the Ramapo newsroom,” he said.
Zurita recommends student newspapers as platforms for young writers to showcase and refine their material before entering the workforce.
“I loved it. It’s a necessary experience if you’re serious about the journalism industry or writing industry.”
In addition to Zurita, French and King, many others students who have worked on the college newspaper are now working journalists. There is a strong connection between The Ramapo News and The Record, one that started nearly 20 years ago.
Among the former staffers working for The Record and NorthJersey.com are Sean Oates, who directs the photo, video and multimedia production; Candace Mitchell, the digital director; Elyse Toribio, the social media director; and Katie Sobko and Gene Meyers, both reporters.