Writing Snippets from Madelyn


I’ve always loved Issuu as a way to showcase writing or page designs, and now the site has gotten a bit of an update. I thought I’d share a few writing samples via Issuu as well. View them here!

You can view the rest on my Work Samples Page. Enjoy!


College Voters 2012 – A Multimedia Journalism Project

A glimpse at our College Voters 2012 project site.
A glimpse of our College Voters 2012 project site.

For our final project of the semester in Multimedia Journalism, our group of five seniors created a webpage centered on the 2012 Presidential Elections. We focused on college student sentiment of the candidates and outcome, especially college seniors.

We each enjoyed contributing our own multimedia elements to the page and loved showcasing the final product.

My specific contributions were the rotating header images on the home page, the Storify piece, and two graphics about student debt on the “Facts & Figures” page.

Take a look at our project for yourself!


Linking Generations bridges gap between students and seniors

Elon sophomore Kendall Quinn gives a glimpse into her time volunteering at Blakey Hall, an assisted living community in Elon, North Carolina:

“There’s a misconception that older people are past their prime,” said Elon junior Caroline McSwain. “But the Blakey Hall residents are on their game.”

Blakey Hall is an assisted living community less than three miles from Elon University’s campus. Linking Generations, the student-run organization formerly known as Adopt-a-Grandparent, is made up of students from all four years who visit Blakey Hall at least once a month to mingle and build relationships with residents.

McSwain understands some students’ hesitation to visit Blakey Hall but assures her peers it’s more than worth it.

“It’s scarier to volunteer with older people,” she said. “But it’s enriching. It’s easier to do in a group setting.”

The organization, which currently has more than 25 members, facilitates activities like craft nights and coordinates holiday-themed parties and weekly visits to simply chat with the residents.

McSwain, now a co-president of the organization, got involved as a freshman. She volunteered for one of her human services classes but loved it so much she continued volunteering throughout the year, eventually earning 50 service hours at Blakey.

McSwain said it’s especially rewarding to visit the second floor of the main building, which houses residents primarily diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

“It’s hard, especially with those patients,” she said. “But they are still carefree and full of life. Helping them be joyful and happy is really important.”

One of her Blakey Hall friends is Hazel, a woman with a sense of humor and an affinity for flashy necklaces, some of which McSwain helped her make during an afternoon of crafting.

Both McSwain and fellow Linking Generations member Kendall Quinn describe Hazel as a “low-key” person who enjoys the simple things, especially sing-a-longs.

Quinn, a sophomore at Elon, finds the residents charming and loves their passion for singing.

“They are all really talented at remembering lyrics,” she said. “It’s amazing to watch. They love singing the classic songs.”

Blakey Hall activities director Judy Simpson said both residents and staff appreciate students’ frequent visits.

“People don’t realize how much a conversation means to them,” she said. “We love having people come, especially when it’s consistent. These folks like to get to know you.”

Simpson said they especially love having students visit during holiday seasons, because residents’ families often can’t make it for every holiday, mainly Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Often, students serve as a sort of extended family for the residents. During McSwain’s sophomore year, she was close with a woman named Bea who lived on the second floor of Blakey.

“She was wild and young at heart,” she said. “ She always looked her best and wore jewelry, and one time she even carried a diaper of jewelry around because she knew people wouldn’t want to touch it and steal her stuff.”

But when McSwain returned to Elon for her junior year, she learned Bea had died in her sleep. She remembered the feeling as bittersweet.

“I was sad, but all my visits with her felt worth it,” she said. “I had had an impact during the last year of her life.”

She said her time at Blakey with Linking Generations has helped her understand her own grandparents more. She sends them frequent e-mails just to say hello, and she said her grandparents appreciate the fact that she cares about elderly people even with a busy college schedule. She said she genuinely loves the organization and visiting her friends at Blakey, and she loves the meaningful, two-way relationships she has formed there.

“It means a lot to them that somebody is there,” she said. “It’s similar to a relationship with peers. They’re friends, and the experiences they share are amazing.”

TurboVote’s convenience a big draw for many Elon student voters

by Madelyn Smith

Click on the infographic above for an interactive look at how many people from certain states registered through TurboVote.

TurboVote wants voting to be easy for Americans and as “awesome as renting a DVD from Netflix,” it says on its website.

In August, Elon University supported this initiative and announced a partnership with the voter registration nonprofit to help ease the voting process for students.

Since then, 1003 people registered to vote through TurboVote at Elon, and there were a total of 1168 ballot requests from people ages 18 to 65.

TurboVote’s mascot of sorts, appropriately named Turbo, is part of the website’s simple interface with a white background and forms that are easy to fill out and submit.

North Carolina, Virginia and New Jersey were among the top states represented in Elon’s ballot requests and registration sign-ups through TurboVote.

The site’s usability certainly contributed to its success at Elon.

“It’s easy to use,” said Sharon Spray, chair of Elon’s political science department. “Especially for students who want to register to vote and participate in voting in a state other than NC.”

Many students in Elon’s large out-of-state population appreciated the opportunity to streamline the voting process.

Jessica Simermeyer, a senior from Finksburg, MD, had registered three years ago after her 18th birthday and did not plan on making the drive home to vote this year.

“All I had to do was log on and request an absentee form,” she said. “Then when I got the form in the mail, I signed off and sent it back. It was very convenient.”

Katie Hadobas, a junior from Fort Worth, TX, said she heard abo

ut TurboVote from an informative email sent by Smith Jackson, Vice President for Student Life. She said signing up for the service took her less than 30 minutes to complete.

“I registered one or two weeks ago,” she said. “I liked it because it’s really simple and it does the busy work for you and cuts down on time.”

Some students like Ryan Vet, a senior from Cary, N.C., experienced a few hiccups during the registration process. He said the directions were occasionally unclear.

“I put my campus box as my current mailing address, thinking it would register me in Elon,” he said. “But I was actually registered in Cary because I put that as my permanent address.”

Vet also said once he was registered to vote, he was inundated with the voting reminder communication TurboVote sent him, including texts and emails.

“They over-communicated a bit, he said. “So I didn’t want to act at times.”

Spray said some students like the simple interface of the website but said it was missing additional bits of information about different candidates.


“But that’s not the purpose of the site,” she said. TurboVote’s FAQ section says its main purpose is to assist with first-time and updated voter registration, absentee ballot submissions and voting reminders in the weeks and days leading up to the elections.

Despite some room for user error with the website’s instructions, Vet said the service is viable and an ideal tool for students to easily register.

“It’s still a good idea and I’ll still vote,” he said. “I’d recommend anything that gets people to vote.”

Elon, Burlington and the local food movement: Creating conscious consumers

After Sandra Sarlinga made the move from Argentina to the United States in 2000, she made a quick stop by a grocery store during her first few weeks in the country. She didn’t like what she found.

“I couldn’t smell any produce,” Sarlinga said. “I wanted the rich scents like at the markets in Argentina, but I didn’t get that in the store. It was upsetting!”

It’s a common scene in American grocery store chains today. Perfectly plump strawberries are stacked neatly against the reddest, shiniest apples, which sit across the aisle from the rich, green bundles of spinach. As is often the case, this produce is picked before it fully ripens to ensure its fresh look by the time it travels – often across the country – to local stores’ shelves.

“If your veggies look perfect, it means no other critter in the world wanted to eat them but you,” said Dr. Norman Wirzba, a research professor at Duke University who spoke at Elon University’s Fall Environmental Forum.

Wirzba’s talk, “Why Sustainable Agriculture Matters,” stressed the need for a real change in society’s mindset when it comes to food. He charged the carnivores and herbivores of the world to take a step back and reexamine where their food is coming from, because, as he put it, “we are the most food ignorant generation the world has ever known.”

“Do we have to grow our food with so much poison, so many pesticides?” Wirzba asked. “Is that what you want to feed yourself?”

For Sandra Sarlinga and her family, that was a definitive no. When she and her husband Fabian moved to Elon, North Carolina, they started The Farm Fairy, a farm which originally sold locally produced honey and now offers artisan breads, lavender, eggs, herbal teas, jellies and soaps, among other products.

Sarlinga’s quest to spread the joy of fresh, healthy food has taken her and her family to several farmers’ markets in the Piedmont area, including the Elon Community Church Farmer’s Market, which is held Thursdays from 2 pm to 6 pm from April to October.

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At a glance, the market’s vendors seem few and far between. There are roughly eight to ten booths per week selling unique and locally produced goods like homemade jams, vegetables, jewelry and tie-dyed clothing. But each vendor has a personality and a story to tell, and a love for their craft is evident.

Michael Strickland, lecturer of English and environmental studies at Elon, said the most notable part of the market is that the vendors are largely located within 20 miles off campus.

“At places like the Company Shops Market in Burlington, which is a local food co-op, you’re writing out all the costs of packaging and shipping food that comes from far away,” he said. “You’re handing your money straight to the guy that grew your food.”

But what about that money? Many people are quick to point out the increased costs associated with buying organic and locally-made foods. Is it worth it to stretch your wallet a bit more for local eats? Is this a realistic lifestyle choice for cash-strapped college students?

Strickland says yes.

In his Sustainable Food Production class two years ago, he had students complete a study of grocery costs. Their goal: to determine if food prices at local chains like Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods were all that different from the Company Shops Market in Burlington.

The students were surprised to find the prices didn’t differ much at all.

After buying the same items at each type of store, they paid just 10 to 15 percent more at the co-op each time. With $100 grocery bill at Harris Teeter, for example, they paid, on average, about $110 at the co-op.

“I tell my students it’s doable, it’s not that expensive,” Strickland said. “If they would just cut down on those other weekly expenses like that one dollar beer or that fancy coffee and plowed their money into buying local food, it could work for them. They could make an impact and a conscious statement to other students about being informed, educated consumers.”

Wirzba said buying local is worthwhile because it helps sustain regional economies and contribute to local business growth. And smaller-scale farming and markets create a thriving culture, not just a thriving economy, he said.

Shoppers who practice “locavorism,” the umbrella term for buying and eating local food, also reap the health benefits.

“Health is an important factor,” Strickland said. “Take a gallon of milk you find at a place like Walmart. The milk comes from who knows where and is probably a mixture from ten different dairy farms. You’d be better off supporting a dairy farm ten miles away that you’re able to track down.”

But Strickland admits it’s often hard to find many local vendors outside of a market setting.
“There are certainly pockets of Burlington that are ‘food desserts,’” he said. “You’d have to travel far to find any local products.”

But he said that, if possible, it’s important to at least know the source of what you’re buying. It may take more effort to research local food vendors, but he said it is certainly worth it.

Living a local lifestyle is a win-win for the consumer and the vendor. For Strickland, the economic and health benefits are plentiful. For Sarlinga, the food quality and taste is unmatched. And for Wirzba, there are unique outlets for personal growth.

“Many jobs only require you to push buttons,” he said. “But with farming, producers and consumers can be connected. You have a wonderful opportunity with lots of local farms in North Carolina to meet the farmers and help them. This makes possible a more celebratory culture. You can grow to know food in a way you haven’t before. You become more grateful over good food. That’s one of the great joys in life.”

Story, graphics, video and photos by Madelyn Smith.

Byron Pitts gives insight into meaning of journalism and coverage of major disasters

Byron Pitts at Elon
Byron Pitts of CBS spoke at Elon University Thursday night about his more than 30 years’ experience as a journalist covering difficult disasters like  9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Madelyn Smith.

by Madelyn Smith

{For additional multimedia and social media coverage of this event, view my Storify piece here.}

Byron Pitts is a self-described optimist, lefty, African American journalist and a storyteller who’s passionate about his craft.

“I’m fortunate every day to be a journalist,” said Pitts in a speech at Elon University Thursday night.

Pitts, whose talk was titled “We are Tough and Delicate Creatures,” is an acclaimed CBS News correspondent, “60 Minutes” contributor and member of Elon’s School of Communications Advisory Board. He has won several Emmys and authored “Step Out on Nothing,” an autobiography based on his youth.

Pitts has experienced no shortage of action during his roughly 30 years as a journalist. He’s covered three wars, interviewed the last six presidents, been to 37 countries and seen almost 50 people die, including the execution of the Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

“In many ways as a journalist, I’ve made my living covering death,” he said. “I’ve seen people stoned to death, beaten to death.”

But Pitts said he knew going into the profession that he would encounter death, and he said he was prepared for it.

Pitts has also served as a witness and exposed the public to some of the worst natural disasters and war zones in the past decade, including the Sept. 11 attacks and the war in Afghanistan, the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“I choose to be optimistic,” he said. “Even being an optimist, I believe what we saw after Hurricane Katrina was that race and class still matter in this nation. We’re not equipped to respond to national disasters well …  I’ve seen what can happen if there is no law and order.”

Pitts described horrific scenes upon his arrival to New Orleans after Katrina: men and women who were left to die or who were already dead lined the main interstate into the city, and it appeared they had been there for days.

“What we saw in New Orleans is that the citizens and the government did not have a plan to take care of themselves,” he said. “The same could happen any place else in this country.”

Pitts said Katrina’s aftermath exposed some of the worst parts of human nature, but that he also saw the best in people, such as those who risked their lives to save others in the wake of the disaster.

“We are capable of incredible things in certain situations,” he said.

Pitts saw such incredible events during his coverage of Sept. 11, where he said his life as a journalist changed dramatically.

He watched in awe with three New York City police officers as the attacks unfolded.  He described a chilling moment where one of the officers believed someone was sending a flag or help signal from one of the Twin Towers, when in reality it was a woman jumping to her death in the debris below.

“I watched people die who played no role in their own death,” he said. “All they did was get up and go to work.”

It’s moments like these and the acts of honor that follow that Pitts said impact him the most as a journalist. He told stories of New York City residents gathering by the masses to help rescue people from the debris in the days following the attacks. He described seeing patients pausing to sing the Haitian national anthem in the middle of an overcrowded hospital following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

Pitts said he feels called as a journalist to give people access to truthful information about such significant events. He said only when people are properly informed can they help when help is needed.

“We’ve shown as a nation that people will do the right thing if people have access to the right information,” he said. “My role is a witness … I see myself as a storyteller.”

And Pitts doesn’t think storytelling is going out of style.

“As long as there’s a United States of America, there will be a place for journalists,” he said. “As long as there are children who want to be read to at night, there will be a place for storytellers.”

‘Crazy for You’ cast preps for classic, energetic American musical

Video and story by Kassondra Cloos, Ashley Fahey and Madelyn Smith

They’re just two weeks into the rehearsal process, but it’s clear the actors of Elon University’s fall musical are already having fun.

The cast has been rehearsing five days a week for the upcoming production “Crazy For You,” written by Ken Ludwig with music and lyrics by George and Ira Gershwin. The show will open Oct. 25.

“It is truly hilarious,” said Taylor Aucott, a junior music theatre major. “It’s very funny, very cleverly written. Obviously there are (the) soft parts and the more dramatic parts but ultimately, it’s a very feel good musical.”

'Crazy For You' beings October 25 in McCrary Theatre at Elon University.

“Crazy for You” is considered a more traditional song-and-dance style show. It centers around a middle-of-nowhere town in Nevada, where the locals are attempting to put on a musical.

The audience can expect a different feel than last fall’s “Hair.”

“’Hair’ was based in the late ‘60s,” said junior music theatre major Karrah Fleshman. “It was very experimental and very open-ended. With this musical, it’s kind of more structured, it has this specific story plot and the characters carry themselves very differently.”

With the major numbers in the first act largely under their belts, the cast is busy sharpening dance routines and trying to get off book as soon as possible, said Ben Redding, senior music theatre major.

“We are showing up to rehearsal every night, putting in those hours and eventually it will all come together,” he said.

Fleshman said rehearsals will relocate to McCrary Theatre starting in October, when the cast will be rehearsing seven days a week.

Since it is so early in the rehearsal process, it’s hard for the cast and crew to gauge how the show will turn out.

“It’s at a very good place for where we are in the process, but I don’t know what is to come,” Aucott said. “Cathy McNeela and Linda Sabo, our director and choreographer, are brilliant, so I’m sure it’s going to be wonderful. But it’s still somewhat of a mystery to me.”

The players of “Crazy for You” are enthusiastic about the musical’s high energy and witty dialogue.

“There’s a lot of dramatic irony in it, so the audience knows what’s going on, but the people on stage don’t know what’s going on,” Aucott said. “It’s very funny to see how people can handle (it).”

The dance numbers also contribute to the show’s quirkiness and charm.

“A lot of dance rehearsals kicking our butts,” Fleshman said. “(Sabo) is just a creative genius. In ‘Slap that Bass,’ there’s this iconic human bass number where the girls pretend they’re bass cellos.”

Aucott said it is an entertaining and good old-fashioned tap show with great dancing, acting and singing.

The other cast members seemed to share the same sentiment. Fleshman, who plays a showgirl in the musical, called it a “wonderful show.” She encouraged audiences to look out for the twists and turns of a classic love story.

“It’s filled with dancing and cowboys and love and wonderfulness,” she said.

Click here for more information about ‘Crazy for You’ including dates, times and ticket information.