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Fiction Writer Finds her Niche in Bethel Journalism

English major Jamie Hudalla '19 has discovered her voice through writing profiles and columns for Bethel's student-led newspaper, The Clarion.

By Katie Johnson ’19, student writer

April 24, 2019 | 1 p.m.

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English literature and writing major Jamie Hudalla '19 (Photo credit: Carlo Holmberg '19)

“I think there’s always this idea of the reclusive writer in the mountains who never speaks to anybody. But, I think an important part of learning to write well is to get out there and experience other stories for yourself and other stories that will inspire you.”

This is how English literature and writing student Jamie Hudalla ’19 describes her experience with journalism at Bethel. Though her first love is fiction writing, Hudalla has been a staple writer for Bethel’s student-led newspaper, The Clarion. She started with long profile pieces, but now works as a freelance writer, submitting opinion columns that seem to be well-received by the student community.

Hudalla has recently been recognized both statewide and nationwide for her articles and columns. The Minnesota Newspaper Association hosts the “Better Newspaper Contest” for undergraduate newspapers in Minnesota, and Hudalla’s story “Beyond the bubble: There are no bogeymen” took first place in the human interest category. The Evangelical Press Association (EPA) puts on a national convention, where they present “Higher Goals Awards” for the previous year’s pieces. Hudalla’s standing columns for The Clarion took second place to Christianity Today, and an article she wrote with fellow Bethel student Bri Shaw ’19, “Loss of Sight, Gained Vision,” took third place in the feature article category.

Professor of Journalism Scott Winter appreciates that competing in contests like this gives students exposure to journalism beyond the university level. “The best thing about it is that our students’ get exposure out in the professional world,” Winter says. “It shows that our students can compete with the biggest schools, with different schools. I don’t think journalists should ever do journalism for awards, but awards are helpful in networking and finding your place in Minnesota journalism.”

The story which won Hudalla first place for the “Better Newspaper Contest” was the culminating assignment for one of Winter’s classes—Feature Writing: Culture, Arts, and Lifestyle. Students were asked to write a long profile piece about someone that interested them, and Hudalla took the opportunity to ask her friends open-ended questions about any interesting people in their lives. Her roommate’s boyfriend, Marco Barton, offhandedly mentioned that his grandfather was a part of a “neighborhood protection program,” which to Hudalla sounded similar to a gang. She latched onto the idea because of her interest in organized crime—a concept that has directed much of her fiction writing as well. 

"Professional journalists really respect students who put in time on a student newspaper and make tough decisions for the newspaper."

— Professor of Journalism Scott Winter

She connected with Joe Cruz, who welcomed her into his home and shared his story as a second-generation Mexican immigrant. “He was the coolest guy ever,” Hudalla says. “He invited me over to have dinner. It was like two to three long interviews where we just sat down, and I asked him about his life. He was super open and funny.”

Hudalla enjoys meeting people and seeing them as characters in their own life stories. She explains that writing news stories is similar to solving a puzzle, as she puts the pieces together with the intention of dropping her reader in an engaging moment. And, though she was comfortable writing profiles, Clarion editors pushed her to take the next step. At the beginning of her senior year, Hudalla was asked to write an advice column for incoming freshman, and the article “Nothing good happens after midnight” was published online at the close of Welcome Week 2018. Since then, she has written a number of columns about everything from an influential breakup to cultural terminology surrounding gender issues. “I knew that if I actually wanted to be a columnist, the important part is being truthful and honest and open about who I am so I can have an audience that’s going to trust me. That’s what I would want in return. You just have to open yourself up and share,” Hudalla says.

The first columns she wrote for the 2018-2019 school year offered a cathartic experience as she tried to process various aspects of being human, like unresolved stories and her perspective of God. Somewhere in her writing, she shifted from writing about things she needed to process to conversations she wanted the Bethel community to feel part of. “When I’m writing a column, the first few were for me just trying to process things,” Hudalla says. “Then when I was writing them regularly, I started thinking, ‘Well, what does the community need to hear? What do I think would be helpful? Or how can I start an interesting conversation that needs to happen?’”

And for Winter, that’s what journalism is all about. “In journalism education, a lot of great things can happen in the classroom,” Winter says. “But there are some things that you have to learn by doing and by making all the tough calls and tough decisions.” He has been encouraged by how The Clarion staff has recently stepped up to cover hard things, like Snoop Dogg coming to campus, or the budget crisis, or even serving the community through how they share truth. “Professional journalists really respect students who put in time on a student newspaper and make tough decisions for the newspaper,” Winter continues. “So, I love The Clarion.”

"Journalism has caused me to interact with humans I wouldn’t have otherwise."

— Jamie Hudalla '19

As she engages with the journalism community at Bethel, Hudalla has found herself part of an award-winning group of storytellers. For the “Better Newspaper Association,” The Clarion was also awarded second place in the general excellence category, 1st place in editorial (Abby Peterson ’18), third place in hard news (Abby Peterson ’18), and third place in sports story (Jared Martinson ’20 and Maddie Christy ’20). Additionally, for the EPA’s “Higher Goals Awards,” the design team received first place for the title page category.

Hudalla appreciates that journalism at Bethel has forced her out of her comfort zone—in the best way. “Journalism has caused me to interact with humans I wouldn’t have otherwise. I get to be part of a bunch of different subcultures at Bethel that I wouldn’t have gotten to learn about. And definitely, it’s forced me out of my comfort zone,” Hudalla says.

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