The thirteenth year of The New York Times Student Journalism Institute was barely into its second day when Richard G. Jones, the director, seemed to sense something amiss.
The 26 students, chosen from hundreds of applicants across the country, range from undergraduates to doctorate students, pursuing careers in reporting, editing, photography, videography, data visualization and design.
Despite the accomplishments that helped bring them to the Institute, Mr. Jones could feel their anxiety. And that, he decided, deserved to be gently mocked.
“You are here because you belong!” he exclaimed, eliciting waves of nervous laughter.
The Times’s publisher, Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., created the Institute to identify talented aspiring journalists early in their careers. The Times works with the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona to host the Institute during odd-numbered years, when it offers the program to student members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. In other years, it is offered to student members of the National Association of Black Journalists.
“We were impressed by the quantity and the quality” of the candidates, said Mr. Jones, an associate editor at The Times. “The students that we picked, we believe, are really among the best in the country.”
The faculty includes present and former Times journalists including Bill Schmidt, who retired after more than 30 years in the newsroom, and Simone Oliver, a graduate of the first Institute, in 2003. She is now an audience development editor at The Times.
This is the first Institute run by Mr. Jones, and it seeks to incorporate a focus on digital, audience development and social media.
“We began 12 years ago as a boot camp that focused on a print product,” Mr. Jones said, “and we evolved into a web product, and I think increasingly we want to be more of a mobile product.”
The program will also include brown-bag sessions with local reporters, law enforcement officials and Times personnel, sharing their expertise.
Tucson, just across the Mexican border, offers a wide range of topics for the student journalists: immigration, homelessness, crime and economic development are among the subjects being considered for their reporting and other projects.
Noelle Haro-Gomez, a photographer at the Institute and a Tucson native, said that although immigration is an important issue in the city, she is more interested in covering underreported social justice and local tribe issues. She is a recent graduate of the University of Arizona and was accepted to the program after applying three times.
The Institute began on Sunday evening over an informal dinner at El Charro Cafe, where students and the Institute staff engaged in conversations about journalism and personal anecdotes.
“I feel very excited, I feel nervous, and I feel blessed to be here,” said Yessenia Funes, who just graduated from SUNY Plattsburgh and will be working as a reporter.
The morning after the welcome dinner, the participants gathered in the journalism department building at the university for orientation workshops, and gentle teasing and encouragement from Mr. Jones.
To illustrate what the students might accomplish during the two-week program, Mr. Jones showed a video of a child who, after learning to ride a bike, passionately motivates others to do the same.
The students’ work will be posted each day online and will be published as a newspaper at the Institute’s conclusion.
Ángel Franco, a photographer at The Times for 30 years who is attending the Institute for the second time, said he returned because it is one of the best things he has done in his life. “The energy here, the intelligence of the folks attending, their enthusiasm to learn,” he said. “I think it is the equivalent of creating a deeper romance for journalism.”
Mr. Jones said he hoped that in two weeks students leave the Institute with good clips, experiences and relationships with faculty and classmates, as well as an understanding of the responsibility that comes with the power of journalism.
“It’s about credibility, believability,” he said. “With that, we have a tremendous obligation to make sure we live up to the highest standards that we can.”