South Charlotte

Area student wins prestigious scholarship

Daniel Sircar is newly inspired after spending time with people who change the world by telling the world's stories.

A graduate of Charlotte Christian School and senior at UNC Chapel Hill, Sircar won a $1,000 scholarship from Google to attend the 2011Online News Association Conference in Boston a couple weeks ago.

There were more than 1,200 people at the conference, and only 20 students from across the nation received the coveted Google scholarship.

In attendance were reporters, editors and producers from the industry's institutions, such as the Associated Press, New York Times and Wall Street Journal, as well as representatives from YouTube, Twitter, Google, Huffington Post and other digital game-changers.

They hailed from all over the world - Japan to Brazil, Australia to Ireland, and everywhere in between.

"It's really a hive of excitement there," said Google's News Industry Manager Sean Carlson.

Sircar, a 21-year-old from south Charlotte, and the other scholarship winners made up the student newsroom that covered the event.

"Take all the journalists and stick them in a room, and who's left to cover the news of the conference?" said Sircar. "So they brought us in."

There were workshops and presentations, and "un-conferences" where informal brainstorming took place.

For Sircar, the highlight was the awards ceremony.

Unbeknownst to Sircar, a group documentary he helped produce last year, called "Now What, Argentina?" had been nominated for the Best Online Video Journalism Award in the student category.

The documentary, which reported on the state of Argentina 10 years after its financial crisis, was a partnership between 20 UNC students and 20 students from a university in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

The team of programmers, videographers, researchers and translators did interviews with citizens, local leaders, and even past presidents.The documentary tied for first place with a documentary from the University of Miami. Sircar accepted the award on his group's behalf.

"I walk up in this conference of heavy hitters in journalism and...thankfully normal, coherent, acceptance-speech words came out," Sircar said. "That was a cool moment."

Google and the news world are intricately connected.

In terms of sheer Web traffic, Carlson said Google News alone sends 1 billion clicks a month to news publishers, and Google's Web search sends more than 4 billion a month.

Though Sircar took a number of photojournalism classes in the UNC journalism school, he's majoring in history with a minor in entrepreneurship.

Right now he's leading a student team testing new business models for digital journalism.

"The journalism industry, at times, seems very chaotic and the future's not clear," Sircar said. "But it was nice to talk to people...who were very passionate about what they (do) but very down to earth. ...If it wasn't for the scholarship, I wouldn't have been there."

Says Carlson: "Students like him are the ones shaping what will come."