SMPA Alumna Pushes Journalistic Boundaries

WASHINGTON, DC - AUGUST 2: Jayne Orenstein in Washington, DC on August 2, 2016. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)
WASHINGTON, DC – AUGUST 2: Jayne Orenstein  (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Hard work, diverse academic training, and a solid support system from her alma mater has pushed Jayne Orenstein SMPA ’11 to deliver Emmy Award-winning videojournalism for the Washington Post. In particular it was her digital media work on professional ballerina Misty Copeland  and her work on First and 17, a 13-episode mini-series that follows top football recruit Da’Shawn Hand, that shaped her early career. “It was just really nice to know that all the time and effort and decisions we had to make to get an episode out every week was recognized by our peers,” she says.

However, telling great stories is just the first step in her career goals. Jayne wants to change perceptions by showcasing more diverse perspectives and experiences. “A lot of the same type of people are attracted to working for news outlets, so we often just reiterate our own ideas and kind of forget that other people might have a different take or perspective,” she says. “I’ve found when our staff and video team is more diverse, it makes for better content and for a better work environment overall.”

Jayne pitched a story about Copeland, the first African American principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater.  “As a young woman, I love hearing about what it means to lead from other young women who have broken barriers without sacrificing what they believe in,” Jayne says. “Misty Copeland goes against everything we typically think a ballet dancer should be. She’s African American. She’s strong and muscular. She has a voice. So we wanted to hear from her about how she leads in an atypical way, not as a CEO or by going to business school, but by demonstrating hard work and perseverance is the path to success. Hearing that someone has put in the work day after day and year after to year to achieve their success is the most inspiring type of leadership, I think.”

Growing up an hour north of Philadelphia, Jayne’s journey to socially conscious video journalism started with comedy. While studying political communications at SMPA, she dreamed of becoming a writer for the Daily Show. “I loved the idea of bringing news along with satire and humor. Because I was such a fan, I thought that working on the show would be the perfect job for me—and I thought the best way to get there would be to study political communications at GW.”  

But plans changed when Jayne took a digital journalism class. With supportive professors and engaging projects, she was able to build an impressive portfolio that got her an internship at the Washington Post. Shortly after graduation, she was hired full time.

Jayne chose GW because she liked the urban location and that her twin sister would also be attending, but she credits her career success to the supportive culture GW provided. She recalls always having access to her professors and endless resources to enhance her study. GW’s well-rounded academic approach and expectations to do her best work prepared Jayne for a job in one of the most prestigious newsrooms in the country.

My time at GW didn’t feel anything like a typical college experience, and that’s exactly what I wanted,” she says. “The location in the city, the close proximity to great internships and smart alumni, and D.C.’s vibrant cultural scene made it really easy to transition from school to work”, she says.  

She stays connected to GW through its alumni mentoring program, social media, and alumni events.  —Veronica Hughes

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