April 22nd, 2013 16:27 EST
Judyth Piazza and theSOP: News and Radio from Around the World
Judyth Piazza is the creator of The Student Operated Press (theSOP
), an organization whose goal is to provide aspiring journalists a place to gain the skills needed to make it in the business.
"I wanted to build an organization that was different," said Piazza. "Something that would give back, leave a legacy behind, as well as belong to the people who use its resources." Piazza is an Italian-American journalist born in Florida. She is a "closet Supernatural" fan, and is learning to fly an ultralight airplane in her spare time. She loves to interview celebrities and influential people, and ask about their opinions of success and share that information with the world via her radio program, The American Perspective. She currently resides in Houston, Texas, in order to pursue her radio career.
Piazza graduated from The University of Central Florida in 2006 with a degree in organizational communications. "(It) wasn`t my first choice," said Piazza. Initially, she wanted to major in Journalism, but did not have the 3.7 GPA required to be accepted into the program. "I took a different route which I do not regret. I learned a lot about communications and how to communicate with students and writers around the world. One of my favorite classes was Intercultural Communications."
While attending college, Piazza wanted to intern at The Press Journal, the only newspaper in her town. Unfortunately for her, The Press Journal had no internship program. This did not stop her from pursuing her dream. Her persistence and passion for journalism eventually led her to be able to job shadow at the newspaper. "After calling the publisher once a day for a month, he finally agreed to let me job shadow some of the journalists," said Piazza. Eventually, the publisher offered her a freelance position at one of their sister newspapers, The Sebastian Sun, a paper which is over 100 years old.
While in school, Naomi Wolfe was a big influence on Piazza`s writing style. She has also always been a fan of Robin Meade from CNN. "Robin knows how to tell a story and really connect with her audience," said Piazza. Meade was her first guest on her radio program in 2004.
One year before graduating college, Piazza launched The Student Operated Press in 2005, but it wasn`t easy. "I am proud that I never gave up when times were tough. And let me tell you, times were tough!" said Piazza. The first step she took was to make sure that she had enough articles of her own to be published on the site. "You can`t launch a newspaper without any news," said Piazza. She wanted to make sure that she followed the guidelines that she followed each day while working at The Sebastian Sun. She also aired commercials on her radio program for six months prior to launching the site. Her radio program aired on several AM stations and one FM station where she lived.
While Piazza was looking for financial backers for The Student Operated Press, many of them wanted her to change the websites business model and charge users for the organizations services. She made it clear to them that that is something she will absolutely never do, for the benefit of both the readers and the organization.
"The best advice that I have received (is that when) venturing into a new business, make sure it is something you would do for free," said Piazza. "If you love what you do, it won`t feel like work." Initially, she spent 16 to 18 hours a day building the site along with her mentor and web developer, Bruce H.G. Calder. "I met Bruce years ago and shared my vision with him about The Student Operated Press," said Piazza. "We immediately implemented it and here we are today."
The Student Operated Press receives hundreds of comments on articles and letters to the editor each month. Unfortunately, the ones that stand out to her tend to be the negative ones. "theSOP deals with highly sensitive topics and political issues from around the world," said Piazza. "Each story has two sides, so there is always going to be a positive and negative reaction."
On May 10, 2007, Piazza wrote an article titled: Operation Stargate and Psychic Spies - A Closer Look at a Journalist`s Wor
k. "I failed to cover both sides of the issues," said Piazza. "I received a lot of negative comments." To this day, she still uses this article as an example to show aspiring journalism students the importance of staying neutral and covering both sides of a story.
Another comment that stands out to Piazza is: " Liberal bitches like Judyth Piazza are what`s wrong with the media today." Piazza received this comment on a story published on The Student Operated Press that she edited but did not write. "This comment was a little disheartening because I have always tried to present myself as 100% neutral and approachable," said Piazza. "When you`re in the news business, you expect these kinds of e-mails and calls, so nothing really surprises me anymore."
There are students and writers from all over the globe that help contribute to The Student Operated Press. Google Translate makes it easy for her to talk to these people. "I never feel lonely at work," said Piazza. "I have so many students and writers to communicate continuously throughout the day." Also, the flexibility of having The Student Operated Press based online gives her the opportunity to travel and work on other projects at the same time.
"Piazza is particularly fond of world news. We are able to cover world stories that most Americans never get a chance to hear about through the main stream media," said Piazza. She also enjoys reaching out to influential people around the world and finding out their secrets to success, and conveying that information to people around the world via her radio show.
As for the future of The Student Operated Press, it is Piazza`s goal to make it be as large as The Huffington Post within the next five top ten years. "If we had more funding, I think we could improve on some of the issues that have been holding us from getting to the next level," said Piazza. Most of the issues the site faces are programming related. She also wishes to improve on the number of writers and broadcasters that The Student Operated Press helps by giving more people the opportunity to practice ethical journalism on the website.
There is one other problem Piazza faces while trying to make The Student Operated Press grow, and that is competition, particularly from major news outlets that want to claim responsibility for their journalist`s success. "After I take the time to help writers build an audience and find a job, the big media giants contact me and want me to remove any trace that theSOP had anything to do with their success in any way," said Piazza. "It makes it difficult for theSOP to grow. I think this is theSOP`s Achilles heel. I don`t think it is fair."
"I enjoy what I do and I think that I am led to help others succeed," said Piazza.