Maple Grove grad named national Student Journalist of the Year

Gino Terrell (Charles Hallman/MSR News)

Gino Terrell has wanted to be in journalism since he was a student at Maple Grove High School. Since then he’s pursued his chosen vocation with uncommon success.

“I just love telling stories,” said the 2012 graduate. Terrell received his latest honor in August when the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) named him Student Journalist of the Year at the NABJ annual convention in New Orleans. He was recognized among such other notables as White House Correspondent April Ryan (Journalist of the Year) and Detroit Free Press Columnist Rochelle Riley (Ida B. Wells Award).

Being honored by the longtime Black journalist organization “meant a whole lot,” Terrell admitted. “I’m glad of winning [the award] for Minnesota. I was born and raised here. It means a lot for me to be the first male recipient from the Midwest.”

Terrell has to his credit nearly 40 journalism awards, most of them received since graduating from high school and as a Hamline University student, where he graduated this past spring with a communication studies degree.

The young man has won awards in general news reporting, sports photography, feature photography, feature writing and sports writing from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and Associated Collegiate Press among others. He also did internships at several print and broadcast media outlets, took freelance writing assignments and participated in the annual ThreeSixty Journalism summer program held at the University of St. Thomas for high school students of color hoping to one day become journalists.

Terrell originally hoped to study journalism at St. Thomas but found it too costly. He was accepted at Hamline, where he took classes and worked at the school’s campus newspaper. “My first three years I worked with the Oracle,” he explained. “I did sports there and won a couple of awards. My favorite stories always were feature stories and getting in-depth.”

Midway through his junior year, Terrell wanted to expand his skills. “I was getting burned out a little bit in just doing a week-to-week paper. I wanted to start something fresh,” recalled the then-Oracle sports editor.

“I always want to do cutting-edge things,” he said. He founded “a glossy magazine” in December 2015, using funds he earned from a summer internship at a local television station. “I funded 200 issues” of Pipers In-Depth, which primarily featured students and faculty of color. The publication later won an SPJ fourth-place award, and two written pieces and a photo display were honored at this year’s NABJ Salute to Excellence Awards banquet. Terrell also won Hamline’s Bailey Memorial Award in Journalism for his efforts.

“I thought if I could show how much of a hit it is on campus, then [the Hamline student media board] will fund it.” Eventually, the board provided funding, which allowed Terrell to pay his staff.

Being a first-time entrepreneur was a learning experience for Terrell. “I did have a [faculty] advisor. But training the writers, making sure that they were doing in-depth reporting and… everything needed to produce a quality publication was challenging. Ensuring that all staff fully understood his overall vision was a challenge as well, he pointed out.

Also, such historical pitfalls as jealousy and discouragement emerged while he forged his journalist path. “I have enough of a support system from my parents and my brother — a lot of support along the way,” Terrell noted.

As he sat in the Minnesota Twins stadium press box, Terrell told the MSR his goal was to cover sports one day. “That’s my number-one love.”

Terrell sees himself among the current “wave” of young Black journalists looking to make their mark in the profession. “I want to be part of that wave,” said Terrell, even though he knows that for Blacks and other people of color it is a tough business to break into and thrive.

“Definitely, I feel like I’ve done enough to be in this field,” Terrell with confidence. “There are a lot of things out of your control. It’s not just about getting your foot in the door… Also it’s about kicking that door down.”


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