Arts journalism student finds niche writing opportunities at Newhouse

Piper Starnes
Piper Starnes. Photo by Leigh Vo.

Piper Starnes is a graduate student in the Newhouse School’s Goldring arts journalism and communications program. Originally from Tega Cay, South Carolina, she attended Clemson University for her undergraduate degree where she studied performing arts with a music concentration. Starnes stays focused on her interests at Newhouse, recently writing a data journalism piece—published in The NewsHouse—on the number of jump scares in horror films, as well as program notes for various symphonies around the country. When not in class, she freelances and seeks opportunities to do work with others in the Newhouse network. 

How has your experience as a graduate student at Syracuse University been? 

It’s been pretty great. I was really surprised at all the opportunities I’ve had so far, like travel opportunities. We’ve been to Toronto, and we’ve been to Rochester a couple of times. Later in the semester we’re going to New York City for a short immersion trip. So that’s been really fun. 

Then there’s also the network that we have. We have a pretty close-knit alumni database that we connect with. They help us out with internships or freelance opportunities for journalism. That’s been great. 

Why did you choose Newhouse?

Newhouse has an arts journalism program. Some other schools have journalism programs where you can specialize in the arts, but Newhouse’s is the only true graduate program for this subject in general. And I think that’s really set it apart from others because, where else can you go for the best of the best?

What research or activities are you a part of and how are you involved? 

Recently, I’ve been working with Hendricks Chapel. I do program notes for their “Music and Message” series. Sometimes I’ll do preview feature stories for them for Syracuse University’s news website. Everything else is pretty much Newhouse-related. I have a job as graduate assistant for the Goldring program with director Eric Grode and assistant director Janet Anthony. 

Aside from that, a lot of freelance. I’m doing research and copy editing for Jeremy Reynolds, who writes program notes and marketing copy for those orchestras. He is a Goldring alumnus, the current editor for Opera America and my mentor for all things classical music. 

What kind of stories are you most interested in telling? 

[Stories] that are overlooked or really niche. While I was at Clemson, I played the carillon and was certified by the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America as an associate carillonneur. Those are the kind of niche things that I’m interested in. [I write about] things people haven’t really thought to pay much attention to, like, for instance, that jump scare story. I don’t think really anyone’s counting jump scares in movies, but I just thought that’d be an interesting thing to read.

What is the biggest takeaway from your experience as a student, researcher and reporter?   

Get to know and find your strengths, and hone in on them. There’s always room to build on your weaknesses, but I feel like if you find out at least what you’re really interested in, focus on that. That will get you on the right path to where you’re going because you shouldn’t pursue something if you’re not interested in writing about it. Don’t force yourself to do that. If I’m interested in music or movies, then I should stick with that.

Griffin Uribe Brown is a first-year student in the magazine, news and digital journalism program at the Newhouse School.