Chelsea Otakan was a biology major when she first stumbled into the Nevada Sagebrush’s office. She was originally looking for the Artemisia office to make use of her web design and photography skills.
“I ran into a girl, someone I knew in high school," the 19-year-old journalism major said. "She was like, ‘You do web stuff, right? We’re looking for a web person.’ ”
Otakan became the award-winning, campus newspaper’s web editor soon after the encounter, exercising her eye for photography and her skills in web design. Recently, Otakan’s intuition and adaptability to the ever-changing media earned her a spot on UWIRE’s top 100 young journalists in the nation.
UWIRE is a website that promotes student journalists and their work in a wire service. It offers student journalists career opportunities and the chance for students and universities to collaborate.
Otakan originally nominated one of her peers at the Nevada Sagebrush but someone else had nominated her as well. Once she found out about her nomination, Otakan filled out her profile on the UWIRE website and collected recommendations from her Sagebrush coworkers.
The day before the winners were announced online, the recipients were notified. Otakan was surprised to find herself on the list.
In addition to the honor, Otakan also received internship offers from media companies including UWIRE and the Association of American Publishers.
“I really didn’t think I had a chance,” Otakan said. “I read some of the other people’s profiles and a lot of them are long-term journalism students — and I was only a freshman.”
Despite Otakan’s disbelief, the peers who recommended her confirmed her talent. Under Otakan's command, the Nevada Sagebrush website received awards from the Center for Innovation in College Media Online Journalism Contest, including Best Overall Web Presence, News Video and Podcasts, and Best Breaking News Package.
Journalism instructor Deidre Pike said she saw how easily Otakan switched modes when an “America’s Most Wanted” television crew visited the campus and the producer spoke in Pike’s classroom.
“Chelsea just sat there and filmed the whole thing and put it online,” Pike said. “They eventually asked Chelsea to take it down, but that’s her instinct. She’s there to record what’s going on to find innovative ways to involve people.”
When Otakan first got a computer in the sixth grade, she said she was instantly hooked. She has since taught herself web design and will begin taking classes for her digital media minor this fall.
“I spent a lot of time online and I sort of messed around and taught myself some of the stuff I know now,” Otakan said.
Though she felt humble regarding her skills, Otakan said she was eager to expand her skill set when she arrived at the University and has found that journalism as her niche.
“I knew I wanted to do something with my web and photography skills but I didn’t really know where they fit in,” Otakan said. “And working at the Sagebrush, they actually fit in really well there. Especially right now in journalism, there’s a lot of new and innovative ideas coming out in the web front.”
As web editor at the independent, student-run newspaper, Otakan leads content management efforts and teaches other Sagebrush reporters how to use the website. Otakan will take over the multimedia editor position in the upcoming year, which will include content production for the website.
“I think the multimedia job is going to be a little more hands-on then my web editor job,” Otakan said.
As for the far future, Otakan said she has no post-graduation plans. Following the rapidly changing journalism profession, she's waiting to see what the industry looks like when she graduates.
“It depends once I get there,” Otakan said when asked about her future. “Things seem to change really fast for me sometimes.”