The Florida Magazine Association honors the life and career of Doug Damerst by awarding a $1,000 cash prize to an exceptional student majoring in the field of journalism/communications. During his 10 years as the editor-in-chief of Florida Realtor magazine for the Florida Association of Realtors, Damerst set an award-winning standard for the Orlando-based publication—a standard he held until his passing in 2014.
The winner of the 2021 Doug Damerst scholarship is Sabrina Salovitz. Salovitz is a junior at Florida Gulf Coast University pursuing a major in journalism with minors in interdisciplinary studies and political science. She is the Editor-in-Chief for her university paper, Eagle News, and has been published in her hometown paper, The Port Charlotte Sun.
What inspired you to pursue journalism/communications as a career?
I fell in love with journalism in high school while taking a Television Production class. We produced a little daily show called Pirate TV that covered upcoming events and announcements and even had a section on the lunch specials. I have always been a writer, but it was in that class that I first began to imagine myself as a reporter. I loved going out and searching for stories and watching my segments air; I had always enjoyed watching the news, but suddenly I wanted to be a part of it too.
What are your professors telling you about the future of our industry?
Journalism is changing, and it will be up to us and the generations that come afterwards to create a new path forward. Each of my professors has lamented the decline of the industry, and I think we all worry about a future without journalism. It is the hard work and dedication of small town and student journalists, as well as big-city reporters keeping the industry alive.
Which interviews/stories have had the most impact on you so far?
I wrote a story on a student government controversy last spring, and it was some of the most intensive reporting I’ve ever done. There were comments made by SG senators during a bill proposal that sparked a student protest. From breaking the story at midnight a few days before to covering the protest to attending the Senate meeting, I was chasing that lead from early morning until I finally crawled back to my dorm at the end of the night. I had pages of notes and dozens of recordings, and I still had an article to write. I don’t think any story has ever been more work, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
What jobs do you want to pursue after graduating?
I want to be a political journalist who works in broadcasting. I am considering attending graduate school, but I’m also open to working in the industry for the next few years to build my experience.
What’s the best advice you’ve received so far about being a writer/reporter?
During my first semester in college, Glenn Miller, one of my lecturers, quoted a famous line from Ernest Hemingway: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.” Writing has always been a lot like bleeding for me; creating a good article hurts. It is hard work, and it’s draining, but maybe everything that matters should be painful.
What would be your dream assignment?
My dream assignment is a protest, a political campaign, a scandal. The best assignments require the transformation of chaos into a clear narrative, and the best stories depend on their subjects. When people care about something enough to raise their voices and call out for change, to organize a march, to run for office- well that’s a story just begging to be written.