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West Hartford Student Selected as Connecticut’s Rep to Top Journalism Conference

Madeline Arcaro (left) works with another student (right) on the school podcast. Courtesy photo

Kingswood Oxford Student from West Hartford will represent the state at the 2020 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. 

Submitted by Jackie Pisani, Kingswood Oxford School

It takes a self-aware and introspective young student to understand her strengths and weaknesses and then pivot to find her passion. Enter Madeline Arcaro ’21 of West Hartford, who was just selected to be the representative for the State of Connecticut at the 2020 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference. The conference is for rising high school seniors who are interested in pursuing a career in journalism and who demonstrate qualities of free spirit. Each state and the District of Columbia sends one representative to the conference.

When Arcaro was younger, she considered herself an actor and participated in several performances, pursued theater with gusto, and believed acting was her path. After taking a journalism class in her freshman year, Arcaro reconsidered her options. “Theater is really unreliable. I thought that the move from theater into journalism made sense since I can still be creative,” she said. Arcaro is now the managing editor for news, sports and investigative journalism of the KO News.

“Now more than ever journalism is important. People have a lack of trust in the media. The media does have faults, and it’s really important to evaluate what they are. As someone who is actively participating in the media, I think, ‘How can I help fix that?’ including bias reporting,” she said.

To sidestep bias, Arcaro writes about topics she is passionate about but not overly so. Since she feels very strongly politically, she believes that she will never become a political writer. “People who are the best political reporters are invested but that they don’t take super strong sides. They don’t lean too far to the left or too the right. I think that is very important,” she said.

Arcaro cites Elisabeth Bumiller, the Washington bureau chief for The New York Times, as a role model. “She does an amazing job running the whole staff, especially in the political climate we are in today. Being a woman in charge of a liberal newspaper, you get attacked so often. She’s very resilient, and she knows exactly what she is doing,” she said.

After a former KO student and New York Times reporter Mark Mazzetti spoke at KO in a recent assembly, the resourceful Arcaro asked to shadow him during spring break at the paper. The willing Mazzetti met with her in D.C., and he arranged for Arcaro to meet with Bumiller and sit in on some staff meetings. “It was astounding seeing her work. The way she handled such a big staff. That was before coronavirus really took over. The first thing she said to me was, ‘You know this is off the record, right?’ I was definitely a little intimidated, but it was so cool.” The staff discussed the coronavirus related articles, how parents can make their children safe during the pandemic, and the presidential press briefings.

A methodical planner, Arcaro bookmarked the application on her computer for the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference for two years. “I had it in all capital letters ‘Apply for this your junior year so you don’t forget.’ It was something I really wanted to do,” she said.

Arcaro wrote two essays for the coveted slot, one involving why she considered herself a free spirit. As a child, some of Arcaro’s teachers commented that she was a free spirit, difficult to control. In her essay she summarized, “Even though {teachers’} comments as a kid were made to pull me down, I’ve become even more of a free spirit, and if it is considered an imperfection by my second grade teacher, it’s an imperfection I’m proud to have.”

Due to the pandemic the June 19-June 24 all expenses trip down to D.C. will be held virtually on Zoom meeting.  “I’m just thankful to be chosen anyway,” Arcaro said.

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Melanie Grados

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