Photo Credit: The Daily Athenaeum. Joe Severino, left, sits with Douglas Soule during a production night.
Many College of Media alumni discover their passion for journalism while working as reporters, photographers and editors for The Daily Athenaeum (DA) student newspaper. During his junior year at West Virginia University, Joe Severino (BSJ, 2019) started working at the DA in both the sports and news departments. As an Elkins, West Virginia, native and avid Mountaineer fan, his dream was to become a sports reporter but during his two years with the DA, he discovered another passion.
“I realized over the course of that year I wanted to make a career out of doing well-sourced, informative and investigative journalism,” said Severino.
Severino recently received the Society of Professional Journalists Green Eyeshade Award for Best Student News Reporter in 2020. He was selected from among student journalists in 11 states for the honor. Since 1950, The Green Eyeshades have recognized the very best journalism in the southeastern United States, including print, television, radio and online.
His stories for the DA covered the Morgantown community and the WVU campus, including Morgantown City Council decisions, police activity, WVU Board of Governors votes, responses and decisions by West Virginia public officials and fraternity and sorority news.
Upon graduation, Severino began his career as a reporter for The Charleston Gazette-Mail in Charleston, West Virginia.
“The DA is the only reason I am here right now,” Severino said. “Adell Crowe, our faculty adviser, and Douglas Soule, my friend and editor-in-chief during my time, pushed me to be better every step of the way. They believed in me, and any article I'll ever write for the rest of my life is a credit to them. Working for student media is the single most important thing young journalists can do.”
Severino was originally hired to cover courts, Kanawha County and the City of Charleston, but since the coronavirus pandemic, traditional beats became more fluid and he was encouraged to find stories that needed to be told.
For Severino, this was an opportunity to help his community and do the investigative journalism he is so passionate about. In May, he reported on how COVID-19 affected the Black Baptist church community in North Central West Virginia. Churchgoers were unable to get tested and their calls to local legislators were ignored, even though many were being hospitalized and two passed away. During this same time, the state was devoting resources to other parts of the state that were experiencing outbreaks, sending in the National Guard and setting up additional testing sites.
“The state established a 12-person minority health advisory team to help lead COVID-19 response the week my story ran. Three of the community members I spoke to were named to the team,” said Severino. “West Virginia is my home. I take any harm done to West Virginians personally. COVID-19 is killing West Virginians, and I do not take lightly my role of keeping the public informed.”
Since May, Severino has reported on COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes in West Virginia, public officials’ response to the crisis and the toll of the virus on survivors.