By Ellen Cicchitti
Since graduating from DeSales University in 2016 with his bachelor’s degree in communication and sport management, Adam Zielonka has been attending the Phillip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland for a three-semester program. This fall is his final semester.
Zielonka was on The Minstrel for his entire DeSales career and became the Editor-In-Chief for the 2015-2016 school year after having been the copy, layout and news editor. He was also president of DiScoUrse his senior year, and a four-year member of the liturgical choir.
After finishing his undergraduate degree, Zielonka felt like a master’s in journalism was the right path. “I knew about the University of Maryland’s topnotch journalism program from my previous college research,” Zielonka said. “Professors like Kevin Blackstone and the school’s proximity to Washington were also big draws.”
For the last year he has worked for The Capital, Annapolis’ newspaper. “The sports guys brought me on as a part-timer to help gather high school scores for the paper,” Zielonka said. “Since then I’ve been writing articles for them, too. The paper’s parent is The Baltimore Sun, so some of my work has been published there, and in one case, The Washington Post, too.”
Zielonka’s article for The Washington Post, in that particular case, was about the unmarked graves in Maryland’s counties notably the Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties. Titled “Unmarked graves pervade Anne Arundel, Prince George’s counties,” the piece depicts the challenges and details that go into finding, recording and preserving burials.
“It was originally going to be a news story about graves someone found near a church in Bowie, [Maryland],” Zielonka explained. “The Bowie editor was about to go on vacation and his boss instructed him to give me the assignment…It turned out that the Bowie graves were not newsworthy enough on their own, so I was advised to ‘spin it forward’ and look at the bigger picture. I learned so much reporting that piece, and it has garnered more reaction from readers than anything I wrote all year.”
When it was published in The Washington Post on July 31, Zielonka couldn’t believe it.
“[It felt] amazing!” Zielonka said. “It was a career goal of mine, yet I just turned 23. The Post reprinted it two weeks after my company ran it, so it was a complete surprise.”
As for what the process of writing the article entailed, Zielonka said, “It was all about finding the right experts to interview and thinking of the right questions. Not just ‘How many do you estimate there are?’ but also ‘Why is this county so much [more] different than the next?’ Many hours of research went into writing this article.”
It won’t stop there. For Zielonka’s final semester, in between his regular journalism classes, he’ll be working at The Capital a few nights per week. He’ll cover the results of boys’ and girls’ soccer, field hockey, volleyball, golf, cross-country and Friday night football. He’ll be in the office taking and making phone calls as well as recording scores and statistics of high schools across the Baltimore area. In some cases, he may even be covering games and writing regular articles.
When asked about advice for DeSales’ students, Zielonka replied, “There are two things I think every Bulldog should consider. One, be a yes-man or yes-woman. Back at DeSales and since graduation, I’ve said ‘yes’ to almost every opportunity or assignment to come my way, even it if was small or unrelated to sports. Always look to expand your horizons, for both your career and your life in general.
“Two, take care of your mental health. We should help each other, but no one else knows how to help you the way you know how to help yourself. Whether you need to give your brain a day off or you need to talk about something with a professional, its importance can’t be downplayed.”
Zielonka has a bright career ahead of him in sports journalism, and one can bet that his by-line will appear in major newspapers for years to come.