Matthew Newton’s WUVA news team produced 17 videos in seven days after Final Exercises last spring.
Reporters from the University of Virginia’s student-run digital media outlet covered not only graduation weekend — which included a speech from Pharrell Williams and numerous events for the Class of 2019 — but also the Presidential Ideas Festival, which brought almost 100 White House veterans, including former president Bill Clinton, to Grounds.
And that was after a semester in which Newton — now a third-year student who served as WUVA’s sports director last year and then summer news director — covered two national championships, as UVA’s men’s basketball and men’s lacrosse teams brought home NCAA titles.
“It was a fantastic time to be the sports director,” Newton conceded.
WUVA, which now includes more than 100 student journalists working on news, sports, culture, and comedy stories, is a prominent student journalism outlet on Grounds, along with The Cavalier Daily and others. It began as a student-operated radio station after World War II, when many returning G.I.s were eager to use their new radio broadcasting skills. Over the years, WUVA evolved to include video, which became the primary focus after the radio station sold in 2017.
The emphasis on video attracted students like Newton, who joined during his first year because he wanted to learn how to edit the sports videos he made as a hobby. He wasn’t particularly interested in journalism at the time but quickly discovered that he loved finding and telling great stories.
Among the stories Newton has covered, the Presidential Ideas Festival stands out for the sheer number of prominent figures it attracted. Hundreds of policymakers, journalists, and scholars converged on Grounds for the event, including Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, “60 Minutes” correspondent and UVA alumnus John Dickerson and many more.
Newton and fellow WUVA reporters had a chance to interview former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, MSNBC “Hardball” host Chris Matthews, and CBS “Face the Nation” moderator and UVA alumna Margaret Brennan. Newton also sat down with Bill Antholis, director and CEO of the Miller Center, to discuss his major takeaways from the festival and how it fits into UVA’s founding mission to train and educate citizen leaders.
In May at Final Exercises, he got to cover ceremonies like the Donning of the Kente, in which graduating black students wear stoles made of kente cloth imported from West Africa.
“It was really cool to see that part of UVA,” he said. “That’s definitely a joy of student journalism.”
And of course, there were those national championships.
“That was wild for me personally, as a lifelong UVA fan,” Newton said.