By Professor Joanne Kabak
I would bet some of you sitting out there today may be saying to yourself, “I didn’t really know her, but that name Audrey Niblo sounds so familiar.”
I’ll tell you one reason why. If you were a potential source for one of Audrey’s reporting assignments on Spectrum, she probably filled your inbox with requests for interviews and lots of questions.
This semester Audrey was a student in my news writing and reporting class and, as a big part of her work, she was assigned to be a writer and a photographer on the campus student newspaper, The Spectrum.
She was a dogged reporter. I want to share the topics she published in the Features section of Spectrum:
She wrote a profile of Tenenda Zenenga, a senior who is a business major and spends his spare time giving back to his community as a football coach to kids in high school.
When she was assigned her next article on a new low-calorie Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, she did her own research by buying a few flavors, trying them out, and lining them up in her dorm room to take a photo to go with the article.
In another story, she informed everyone what orientation leaders actually do and why they are so passionate about the role.
In a whole different area, she wrote about ProntoPlate, a new food ordering app being developed by students at Sacred Heart.
In her last article, published just on April 25, she profiled Nina Miglio, the WHRT station manager. It was a tough assignment as, despite her dogged pursuit, the topic of her original source didn’t respond. The editor had to give her a new topic at the last minute and Audrey had to write it on a tight deadline a week ago.
She did it — a fast turnaround, a great article.
Audrey took advantage of opportunities. Very early in the semester, when Jenna Bush Hager came to campus, I realized it would be good for new journalists to test their skills in a high-profile situation. I told 34 students that if they asked a question of Jenna Bush, then they would get extra credit. Two students took the chance. One of them was Audrey. And she was sure to remind me to record that extra credit for her in my grading sheet.
Audrey was a joyful presence in the classroom. She liked to laugh at the funny situations that came up and she often raised her hand to answer those pesky questions we teachers like to throw out about, say, reviewing the material from last week.
Like many students, she had her favorite seat, and I can so clearly see her with her blond hair, often wearing something turquoise, sitting in “her” spot in the Martire theater where we had our class.
Last Tuesday was our last class. And it is especially poignant to me that just at the time we would typically be gathering for a new session of news writing on a Tuesday morning is when I heard about Audrey’s passing.
The last few days on Spectrum went from all the hard work to the celebration of another outstanding year with new board meetings and a special farewell dinner on Sunday for the outgoing board.
It is very hard and very emotional to go from those happy moments to mourning the loss of Audrey. She was not just a student, but for me and her editors, she was a staff writing peer with whom we all worked very closely.
In news writing, we expend much effort on being balanced and objective. There is nothing about being either balanced or objective at a moment like this.
Spectrum has never lost one of its own. We have no precedence for how we will honor Audrey, but I have no doubt once the shock of loss subsides a bit, the editors and I will know what we want Spectrum to do in tribute.
As I reflected on what I wanted to say about Audrey, I thought “how will I ever end my words?” Then I remembered that I have Audrey’s year-end portfolio of her work, which I had yet to read and grade. In addition to posting links to their articles, students are also asked to reflect on what they learned and what was their favorite article.
So I will end my words about being Audrey’s teacher with Audrey’s own words in her portfolio.
Here is some of what Audrey had to say;
“The article I wrote about Ben and Jerry’s Moo-Phoria was my favorite because I got to learn about a new type of ice cream. I also liked that I got to talk to different people around campus. It helped me learn how to talk to people in a journalistic capacity. It helped me learn how to write more like a journalist. In addition, I got to eat ice cream with less guilt.”
“I had to learn when it is considered acceptable to be pushy with a source but also when not to be. I also learned how to meet my deadlines at all times because I knew that there were other people counting on me. Also, I was able to provide a benefit for the SHU community by informing them about the new type of ice cream coming to freezers near them.”
AND THAT WAS AUDREY – A LOT OF HARD WORK, A LOT OF CARING, AND A LOT OF JOY.
Thank you for letting me share my experiences and my feelings with you.
This eulogy was written in memory of Audrey Niblo by Professor Joanne Kabak. It was read to a large crowd in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Sacred Heart University on May 1, 2018.