Julie Seraphinoff Price always followed the work of journalists. Whether they were covering the Watergate scandal, the Vietnam War, or smaller things, Price always woke up to newspapers on the table. She liked reading it, became interested in writing it and soon decided to become involved with her high school yearbook.
After around 47 years in journalism, including 28 at MIPA and 25 teaching at Haslett High School, Price works part time as the Managing Editor at East Lansing Info (ELi). She returned to MIPA Monday evening to host a press conference. She spoke about herself and students were given the opportunity to ask questions.
The conference began with Price sharing background information and talking about her inspirations and career.
Starting with a mentorship writing at a small local paper, Price pursued journalism at MSU and began writing and editing for local newspapers around the state and in California. She ended up at the Lansing State Journal but then elected to return to MSU for a teacher certification.
“I wanted to teach high school journalism,” Price said. “I wanted to work with your age group to have a voice, because reporting in my small town, I really saw the young kids and [saw] that they had so much to say.”
After sharing about her background, Price opened the floor for questions. All students who wished to ask a question were able to and the conference ended before the 9 p.m. cutoff. Questions varied, from asking about Price’s personal history and career.
The question and answer section began with a question from Allegra Blackwood, of Ann Arbor Community High School. Blackwood asked Price about the importance of MIPA.
For Price, MIPA helped guide her towards the beginning of her career, as she came into teaching after being a practicing journalist and had to deal with numerous challenges.
“At one point you mentioned MIPA saved your career. What do you mean by that?” Blackwood inquired.
“Sometimes, I was not well liked because of what the kids were doing. So I needed a support group. MIPA became that,” Price said. “It changed me as a teacher. I had the journalism part of it but [not] how to be a good adviser. To coach kids on how to be good journalists. I had really good support from it.”
Price spoke about her perspectives on community and local news, including the importance of her own publication, East Lansing Info, when asked by students about it. The first question that prompted Price to speak about ELi asked about her best experience being a managing editor. For Price, this proved to be the shooting on Feb. 13, 2023 at MSU, which killed three students and left five others in critical condition, resulting in an area-wide shelter-in-place.
The diligent work she and her team put in made for a memorable moment. With police searching the area and reporters flocking to the scene from across the state, Price and her team were able to stay focused on the mission of their publication.
“At that moment, I was upstairs at my computer working. Alice was reporting from the school school board meeting, locked down,” Price said. “We were tracking all the scanner apps. I mean, the rumors going around. It was so very, very scary.”
She went on to talk about the process of filtering through information, and the importance of only publishing based on official communications, not the police radio. Following the shooting, her team became responsible for follow-up coverage, including mental health resources for the community– something not reported on by larger outlets. More information on the coverage that night can be found on ELi’s site.
A student from Portage Northern asked Price about the greatest challenge she had faced. Price responded by speaking about her transition into advising student publications. Since many of her previous positions were at the copy desk, she found that she was rewriting her students’ work.
“[I gained] an understanding that they weren’t my publications – they were kids’ publications. That’s how MIPA helped me. [I realized] that the more empowered the kids are, the more they’ll care about the publication.”
This experience is what showed Price how important it is to give kids a voice and bring them into the editing process.
One of the recurring themes in Price’s answers was the importance of community journalism and journalists. This doesn’t just apply to professional or adult outlets, though. High schools and their publications are much like little communities, from Price’s perspective.
According to Price, many larger local outlets or advertising papers don’t provide valuable regular coverage of local government and the community as a whole, unless something big enough happens that will draw interest. This is what allows them to compete with ad-based publications, such as the Gannett-owned Lansing State Journal.
“They’re not covering the school board. They’ll cover it if there’s a big event, but [ELi] is at every meeting, and if we can’t be there in person, our reporter watches it. That’s how we draw people in,” Price said.
The coverage offered by hyper-local publications can also be more personal and fit the needs of specific groups. For East Lansing, Price described the readership as liberal and well informed, and as such she has had to consider additional factors in what needs to be reported.
Before and during Price’s tenure, ELi filled gaps in knowledge, including reports on every City Council meeting and accessible updates on developments on Grand River. Price noted it is all free. The only paid services simply offer perks, including paying $100 a year to have stories emailed and accessible earlier.
Price has found running a non-profit newsroom to be different from her previous experiences. With annual revenue being around $170,000 each year, Price has to keep donations and fundraising constantly in mind. However, she has also enjoyed being able to offer meeting summaries as well as telling stories about the community.
“We need to tell the stories of people in the city. That will draw in a wide variety of people,” Price said. “If you know your kid might be featured… or we’re telling the story of other people in the community, that’s going to draw in a wider audience.”
For most of Price’s career, she has focused on empowering and supporting young people, especially journalists, to tell their own stories.
Isabella Figueroa of Loy Norrix High School asked for Price’s advice to aspiring journalists.
“What would you say to the younger generation of journalists who are in the same position that you once were, that are being told they will be out of money or out of a job, especially with social media?” Figueroa asked.
Price responded with words of encouragement. According to her, young journalists can start anywhere, with more opportunities involving technology and social media.
“It’s even more important now that we have people telling the truth, trying to find the truth and getting out of misinformation that is threatening our democracy and our world,” Price said. “I would never tell anybody not to go for it.”
More biographical information can be found in the Upstart’s earlier article previewing the conference.