Juniors Niki Taylor and Madeline Arcaro spent two weeks this summer at the School of the New York Times (SONYT), a writing and journalism program at New York University run by, you guessed it: the New York Times.
The two best friends are both avid writers and editors for the KO News and share a passion for writing. Although Niki prefers screen writing and Madeline loves journalism, their interest in writing drew them to different summer programs in the School of the New York Times. “It’s actually really weird because by the time we were both applying we were both good friends–” Madeline said before Niki finished her sentence. “But we had never talked about applying together,” Niki explained.
Madeline was first drawn to one of the School’s journalism courses in the winter of the 2017-2018 school year. Unfortunately, it did not work out for her. “When I was in the middle of the application, literally in the middle of doing the application, it closed,” Madeline said, “Like, they kicked me out of it. The last person had been accepted.”
Still determined to apply, Madeline waited an entire year. “The next year, I did the application the day that it opened,” she explained. “It was December 2. I did it the day it opened, and I submitted it.” About two months later, she was told she had been accepted.
Niki’s story with the program started out a little bit differently. “I found it on Instagram,” she said, laughing. “Just like scrolling through my feed and I thought, ‘Oh, this seems cool, and they have writing for film and I’m really interested in film.’ So I thought that would be a good idea.” Niki applied before the early deadline.
The two friends only found out they were both attending when Madeline was looking through KO News survey responses about programs and activities people were doing over the summer. “One of the responses was ‘SONYT,’ and it was Taylor.N.21 and I was like ‘Whose last name is Taylor?’” Madeline laughed. “It got so bad that I had to go through the emails, and type in Taylor to figure out who it was.”
It turned out that, not only were they attending the same program, but they were attending the same session, too, by pure coincidence. While the school is run by the New York Times, it isn’t just a school for journalism. In Niki’s course, she developed a draft into a 10-12 minute finished screenplay. “It’s about this CIA agent with this partner she’s really close to, and he has to fake his death and not tell her,” she explained, “and eventually he shows back up and she can’t come to terms with how he betrayed her.”
Niki said she really learned how to structure as well as style a screenplay. “For the class, we could write a pilot or a short film. Then we worked on developing the characters, and it had to wrap up in some way at the end,” she said.
On the other hand, Madeline’s class was an introduction to journalism. “When I applied I considered myself a beginner, but by the time I took it I definitely wasn’t,” she said. “We did a lot of work with on-the-spot interviewing too, which I hadn’t done much of.”
Niki also got the opportunity to talk to the head of the screen writing program at NYU. “He gave advice about what their school or others like it would look for in an application,” Niki said. “He also said that, because it’s a very risky business, most people don’t get started on [screenwriting] straight out of college. They’ll minor in something unrelated and work on that first.”
Both Madeline and Niki said they enjoyed their experiences at the SONYT and are glad they went.