“Summer internships”

West Wing Writers

What we did on our summer vacation — Part 3

Students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program are holding a variety of summer internships

By Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi – August 10, 2017 | Print this article

During the past several weeks, we have taken a close look at the summer internships held by students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program and the Duke Reporters’ Lab. The students below are working on a range of projects involving journalism, from sports and education reporting to speechwriting and political communications. (Catch up on Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.)

Hank Tucker – The News and Observer

For Hank Tucker, spending his summer making the rounds of North Carolina’s college sports scene is great preparation for his role as the incoming sports editor for the Duke Chronicle. In the last two months, he has covered Jay Bilas, Duke graduate and ESPN college basketball analyst, Chuck Amato, the ex-North Carolina State head football coach, and Lincoln Riley, the new head football coach at the University of Oklahoma.

Tucker is covering local sports as an intern at the News & Observer in Raleigh. The relative dearth of competitive action in the summer months has challenged Tucker to approach sports news from fresh, interesting angles.

He recently reported on Raleigh’s bid for a Major League Soccer team and also wrote an article on efforts to revive Rickwood Field, the oldest professional baseball park in America.

“My favorite days are when I get to leave the office to cover an event or interview somebody locally,” Tucker said.

Working at the N&O has opened Tucker’s eyes to the existential struggles of the newspaper industry. Due to financial constraints, the newspaper discontinued its copy desk, which means that Tucker is solely responsible for the accuracy of his stories.

How news is read online is changing the role and metrics of the journalist, he discovered.

“I’ve known for a while and learned in classes that print newspapers are dying and becoming less profitable, but I’ve experienced it firsthand this summer,” Tucker said. “The N&O is going through a process called ‘newsroom reinvention,’ which is an effort to write more engaging stories for a digital audience and un-prioritize the print product. The beats for reporters are being reorganized and there is a much bigger emphasis on online page views.”

Tucker is keen to use this experience to amplify the Chronicle’s online presence.

“Learning more about how to reach more people and drive up online traffic has been a big thing that I’ll try to take back to school and apply at the Chronicle,” Tucker said. “Figuring out what works best in different areas of the Internet is something I never really thought about before but something that will obviously be more and more important with the way journalism is going.”

Sam Turken – WBUR

In Boston, Sam Turken is getting a firsthand experience of the city and its pressing social issues. In the past two months as an intern at WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station, Turken has covered everything from wealth disparities and affordable housing shortages to the city government’s response to a surge in violent gun crime.

Turken is interning at WBUR’s Newscast unit, which produces short news bulletins that are broadcast on NPR on the half-hour.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know that my writing is being read for NPR,” Turken said. “Newscast reports on every breaking development throughout the day. We’re among the first ones on the scene of every new notable story. And there has been no limit to what I’ve been able to write about and cover.”

In addition to reporting with Newscast, Turken has also had the opportunity to work on a variety of stories and projects with the digital team. He has helped build research databases on possible sanctuary cities in Massachusetts and engage East Boston residents in discussions about climate change through Listening Posts, which are digital forums that host community conversations.

Turken, the incoming managing editor of the Duke Chronicle, is an aspiring public radio journalist. He said that he has been able to learn about the mechanics of radio production through working with seasoned WBUR reporters and producers.

“Unlike most traditional print news writing, writing for radio involves writing more like the way you speak,” Turken said. “You have to present complicated information and topics in a way that is easy for listeners to understand. I have become more comfortable doing that over the past two months. I also have learned new tricks to capture and keep listeners’ attention.”

Julia Donheiser – Chalkbeat

This summer, Julia Donheiser is reporting across the landscape of education issues. From New York City, she has covered stories ranging from the local to the federal, from the classroom to the policy desk, from the 2017 National Teacher of the Year to Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Donheiser is an intern at Chalkbeat, an online, nonprofit publication that focuses on education reporting. Working at Chalkbeat is Donheiser’s first experience in the newsroom, and she said she has learned a lot about the nature of online journalism.

“I’m not big on social media at all,” Donheiser said. “In fact, I only have Twitter because my bosses throughout the years have pressured me into getting an account for the sake of journalism. It’s kind of crazy to see the additional readership we get just from tweeting things or sharing them on Facebook.”

At Duke, Donheiser is studying data journalism through Program II, a program that enables students to design their own interdisciplinary curriculum. This summer, she has appreciated the opportunity to practice the blend of long-term research and reporting she wants to do in the future.

During the past two months, Donheiser’s main project has centered on discrimination against LGBT students in the Indiana voucher program. She has analyzed more than 300 private school handbooks, interviewed school administrators on policies and built research databases.

“It’s really cool to be reporting on something and know that it’s going to stir up the discussion, at the very least,” Donheiser said. “It’s also kind of scary to think that I’m putting out data that’s going to make a lot of people angry, but that’s the nature of watchdog journalism.”

West Wing WritersCarly Stern – West Wing Writers

Working at West Wing Writers, Carly Stern is learning how the nuances of language can influence public policy discourse.

Stern is an intern at the Washington, D.C.-based speechwriting and political communications firm, which was started in 2001 by speechwriters from President Clinton’s speechwriting shop.

During the past two months, Stern has worked on projects focused on reproductive rights, U.S. foreign policy, stigma surrounding AIDS and workplace diversity.

“On a day-to-day basis, I provide research assistance and perform a range of writing-related tasks, but my work always varies,” Stern said. “When colleagues are looking to learn more about a new client or seeking to formulate an approach to an argument, I might take a deep dive at compiling relevant articles, institutional reports and data.”

Stern has taken many reporting classes through the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program. She said the storytelling skills she developed in those courses have been useful to her internship, where she is involved with crafting complex policy arguments into digestible narratives.

The challenge of both communications and reporting is getting readers invested in your argument, she discovered.

“The work I’ve been doing at West Wing Writers requires me to consider these questions every day,” Stern said. “In particular, my tasks require comprehensive consideration of narrative structure. Framing is crucial, because I have to create a human connection to the statistics I’m compiling.”

Stern said she has enjoyed being pushed to think outside her point of view.

“When I’m working on a memo for a client, I can’t necessarily communicate how it comes most naturally to me,” Stern said. “I have to think about the language this person would use to make the point, and contemplate which personal biases might influence his or her perspective.”

Likhitha Butchireddygari – NBC News

A rising junior and the incoming 2017-18 editor-in-chief of the Duke Chronicle, Likhitha Butchireddygari is finding that her college journalism experiences have been more than useful for real-world reporting on national stories.

Butchireddygari is an intern in the investigative unit at NBC News and has been involved in coverage of such issues as election security and the opioid crisis. She assists with research, data collection and reporting for collaborative investigative projects and also has been able to pursue her own investigations.

“So many of the skills I employ at my internship are skills I absorbed from Policy Journalism and Media Studies coursework, such as reporting from Newswriting and Reporting and data analysis from Journalism in the Age of Data,” Butchireddygari said. “I also first realized my interest in investigative journalism through an assignment for Bill Adair’s News as a Moral Battleground course. While researching an incidence of fabrication at a local Massachusetts newspaper, I realized how enthralling enterprise reporting can be.”

Butchireddygari said she has been surprised to learn of the intricacies of the television news production process. Her experiences at NBC News have reaffirmed her interest in a journalism career, she said.

“The most fulfilling part of my summer so far has been waking up every day excited to go to work, knowing that I have so much to do and contribute, and ending the day with a small sense of accomplishment,” Butchireddygari said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very involved internship that allows me to contribute to so many meaningful and important projects.”

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What we did on our summer vacation — Part 2

Students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program are holding a variety of summer internships

By Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi – July 27, 2017 | Print this article

During the next several weeks, we will be taking a closer look at the summer internships held by students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program and the Duke Reporters’ Lab. The students below are working in a range of fields, from investigative reporting to data analysis and political communications. (Catch up on Part 1 of this series.)

Drew Johnson – NBC News

Drew Johnson is on the front line of the future of journalism. Johnson is interning in the Digital Strategy and Operations department at NBC News, helping the TV network explore new business models.

Johnson’s projects range from analyzing readership and advertising trends to developing strategies to monetize news content.

“My biggest project so far has involved analyzing two social media feeds under the NBC News umbrella to see how they are similar and different,” Johnson said. “In the coming weeks, I will be creating an analysis of NBC News’ push alerts to see how they can be used most effectively, while also working on a project that looks at how NBC News can best target younger audiences — a demographic that legacy media companies have traditionally struggled to capture.”

At Duke, Johnson is a Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate student and has been an associate editor for the Duke Chronicle. His experience on both the editorial and business sides of news give him a broad perspective, he said.

Johnson said he has been surprised at the level of interdepartmental collaboration his projects have required.

“Very rarely have I completed projects without working together with members of other NBC News departments,” Johnson said. “The collaboration also means that when a project is finally done, it is full-bodied, wide-ranging and includes input from many different parts of the company.”

He recently presented his work to senior NBC News executives, which he said was an important milestone at the internship.

“I know I have a unique opportunity whenever I get face time with the decision-makers, and it’s great to know that the work I’m doing informs choices that executives are making with respect to the company’s vision and how NBC News uses its resources,” Johnson said. “It’s a great feeling when you have worked hard on a project and become an expert on a specific topic and can pass that information onto people who are genuinely interested in — and have the power to act on — what I have discovered.”

Ben Leonard – Center for Investigative Reporting

During his summer internship at the Center for Investigative Reporting, Ben Leonard has enjoyed producing journalism that makes a difference.

The center publishes its work on a website called Reveal, which is also the name of the center’s public radio program and podcast. Leonard promotes the center through social media and does research and writing to help with investigative projects.

“Day-to-day, that entails a lot of searching for stories, crafting tweets and Facebook posts that tell stories fairly, and finding groups, influencers and journalists and reaching out to them with our stories,” Leonard said. “I tend to get that done early in the day, and have most of the day free to work on research for investigations when I’m not in meetings.”

Leonard said he has enjoyed working alongside seasoned reporters.

“Sitting in on editorial meetings has been extremely fulfilling because I get to see how a newsroom really works,” he said. “I’ve learned so much from just experiencing that process and getting to know our reporters. Investigative journalism sounds intimidating, but all you need to get started is an Internet connection.”

Riley Griffin – Precision Strategies

As a political affairs and strategy intern at Precision Strategies, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm, Riley Griffin helps to craft communications approaches that have an impact.

“I’ve written op-eds, media advisories and various research reports on upcoming legislation, social media trends and corporate responsibility initiatives,” Griffin said. “Because I’m assigned to many clients, every day feels different and is subject to the political whims of the moment.”

Precision Strategies has done work for clients such as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Planned Parenthood. It is headed by veterans of President Obama’s campaigns.

Griffin recently went to Capitol Hill to interview protesters demonstrating against the Senate Republicans’ health care bill. She also helped with a project that examined the growing population of incarcerated women.

She collaborates with coworkers who have a variety of backgrounds, from political campaigns to data analysis and crisis management. For Griffin, a student in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program and the Huffington Post Campus Editor-At-Large for Duke, the experience has given her some helpful insights into journalism.

“I now understand the process by which many articles about government, nonprofits, and corporations get pitched and ultimately published,” Griffin said.

Claire Ballentine – Bloomberg News

Claire Ballentine is spending the summer in Detroit writing about the future of the automobile industry. She says the city is a surprisingly upbeat place.

Ballentine is interning in the Bloomberg News Detroit bureau, where she is covering industry trends and the Big Three car companies – General Motors, Ford and Fiat-Chrysler. For someone who had little to no knowledge of the auto industry before this summer, she’s had a steep learning curve but has found the work fulfilling. As the only intern in the office, she has been able to work closely with veteran reporters.

In addition to her reports on the auto industry — one of which gave her an opportunity to ride in driverless cars — Ballentine has also helped with stories ranging from Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods to the ongoing water crisis in Flint.

“The main Bloomberg office in New York will contact reporters at different bureaus in different cities when they need information from other parts of the country,” Ballentine said. “When Amazon took over Whole Foods a couple of weeks ago, they sent me out to a Whole Foods to interview customers. I went to Flint, Michigan last week, and I interviewed people about the water crisis two years on.”

Ballentine said her experience at the Duke Chronicle, where she served as editor-in-chief during the 2016/17 academic year, has been vital for her.

“A lot of journalism is about critical thinking, and having a certain skepticism about the world,” Ballentine said. “Duke is a place where, journalistically, you can really foster that.”

Matthew Riley – NBC News

Russian hacking and collusion in the U.S. elections. Health care fraud in the opioid crisis. Cellphone smuggling into state prisons. The range of projects Matthew Riley has been working on this summer at NBC News has introduced him to the hard-hitting world of government and business corruption.

As an intern in the investigative news unit at NBC News, Riley researches, writes and helps produce investigative stories shown on programs such as Nightly News with Lester Holt and Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly. On a day-to-day basis, Riley is contacting public information officers at state and federal government departments, providing database and background research, crafting stories and occasionally assisting with production shoots of interviews.

Riley, a rising senior and public policy major, has previously written investigative stories for the Duke Chronicle, one of which debunked a Duke security guard’s claims of having been a war veteran and 9/11 responder. In the last two months, Riley has been able to develop his newswriting and research skills.

“I’ve gained a new intellectual understanding of policy, stakeholders and media-government relations,” Riley said. “I’ve learned practical skills to get the information I need. Knowing which government office to call and when to call it, how to conduct an interview most effectively and how to request hidden information that is public record are valuable skills that I practice daily.”

As a journalist, Riley said he seeks to tell stories that can change people’s lives for the better. His first byline covered the story of George Herscu, one of many Romanian Holocaust survivors who were recently recognized and compensated by the German government.

Riley has found the work of investigative journalism to be both engaging and fulfilling.

“I show up at work excited and curious about what I will discover,” Riley said. “Every day I learn something new that someone doesn’t want me to know. I get a rush out of digging into a story, unearthing information that is difficult to obtain and then using that information to fuel action and policy change through journalism. It is invigorating to know that my work can have a direct and positive impact on millions of people.”

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Duke Reporters' Lab students

What we did on our summer vacation — Part 1

Students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program are holding a variety of summer internships

By Andrew Tan-Delli Cicchi – July 18, 2017 | Print this article

During the next several weeks, we will be taking a closer look at the summer internships held by students in the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate program and the Duke Reporters’ Lab. The students below are all working at journalism internships, but others are exploring fields such as political consulting and speechwriting. (Continue with Part 2 and Part 3 of this series.)

Asa Royal – Tampa Bay Times

In his first two months at the Tampa Bay Times, Asa Royal has written about local politics, a cemetery and an 800-pound fish. His article on a goliath grouper harassing local fishermen even made it on the front page of the print edition.

Royal is interning as a general assignment reporter at the St. Petersburg, Fla., newspaper, which means every day he may need to explore a completely new topic.

“Day-to-day, I’m pursuing pitches I’ve gotten from editors, cold-calling officials and figuring out ways to convert a notebook full of information I think is interesting into a story that readers will think is interesting,” Royal said.

Royal, a computer science major and the previous co-chair of the Duke Chronicle editorial board, had limited experience in news reporting when he began the internship. His classes for the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate had taught him the basics, but the immersive experience of day-to-day reporting has given him a much richer understanding of what journalism is like. He also has enjoyed the characters and issues about which he has written.

He closely follows national politics, so the experience of reporting on local news has been eye-opening. His most memorable story involved a black socialist party’s mayoral endorsement ceremony. Royal was struck by how local politics is different.

What matters in a mayoral race are issues such as the success of a certain school or the design of certain neighborhood infrastructure, he discovered.

Royal has been energized by the questions that the local issues raise.

“Every day, I sit next to reporters who can answer those questions,” Royal said. “They know more about their beats than I will ever know in my lifetime. So it’s been a humbling and incredible experience to spend time with them and see for myself that, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know that much.”

Mitchell Gladstone – Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia

Mitchell Gladstone is taking the plunge into the fanatical world of Philadelphia sports. A regular workday might find him covering a Phillies game, an Eagles training camp, or even the 76ers’ NBA draft preparations.

Working as a digital media writing intern for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia, Gladstone reports on all four of the city’s major professional sports teams: the Phillies the Eagles, the Flyers, and the 76ers. He also covers a variety of other college and local sports.

As the incoming sports managing editor for the Duke Chronicle, Gladstone is excited to use this summer’s experience to reimagine the Chronicle’s online platforms. He said he has been amazed to learn of the intricate operations involved in running an effective news website.

“At CSN, a web producer is not only writing and editing, but constantly moving stories around on the main and team pages,” Gladstone said. “There’s also the tasks of constantly changing the main block with stories and photos, as well as setting the streams for live baseball games and other newsworthy events. It’s also critical to get out immediate breaking news tweets and app alerts, all things that I’m not used to in my daily work at school.”

Of the stories Gladstone has covered, interviewing pinch-hitter Ty Kelly after his game-winning hit for the Phillies against the Boston Red Sox ranks among his most entertaining experiences. Kelly, who had only joined the Phillies’ roster two months previously, was himself startled by his unlikely but decisive play. Gladstone is looking forward to profiling outfielder Mickey Moniak, the team’s No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 MLB draft.

Above all, Gladstone said he has enjoyed the simple pleasures of writing for a large audience.

“When you look up on the wall and see how many people are looking at your story, there’s a sense of pride knowing that you can hang with those who are doing this as a full-time, salaried job,” he said. “It reminds you that you can do whatever you love so long as you give it the passion and energy it deserves.”

Katherine Berko – ARLNow

From the visa issues of pool lifeguards to up-and-coming startups and county government decisions, Katherine Berko is focusing on community news.

Berko is interning at ARLNow, the flagship of Local News Now, a company that delivers online local news in the Washington suburbs.

“I write about everything,” Berko said. “I’ve covered events like the opening of a new tattoo shop to local leaders’ reactions to Trump’s climate decisions to a meal kit startup to homelessness in the area to a short piece about a stick of deodorant that was on top of the bus stop for over a week. Now that was funny!”

Berko, a student seeking the Policy Journalism and Media Studies certificate, has taken courses in newswriting and local news during her time at Duke. She was introduced to the inner workings of local government in a class called The Durham City Beat, while another class, News as a Moral Battleground, enabled her to develop an ethical lens into journalism. Both classes have given her valuable and practical insights into her current reporting.

For Berko, covering a community is a great way to get an in-depth understanding of the people and their local government. Berko’s most memorable story covered a recently-opened homeless shelter, an experience that allowed her to relate to the county’s progress in reducing homelessness. She is also working on a long-term project investigating the gender imbalance in the website’s readership.

High levels of online engagement have impressed on Berko the weight of a journalist’s responsibility in reporting news. Her piece on Trump drew more than 130 reader comments.

“The most fulfilling aspect of my internship is knowing that my boss trusts me enough to tell stories and give them the attention they deserve every time I’m assigned a new beat,” Berko said. “It’s daunting because I want to ensure I don’t miss anything in the story, but incredibly rewarding when I feel that I have taught my readers something. It’s truly an honor to know that each person reading my article is trusting my ethics, reporting capabilities and accuracy.”

Amelia Cheatham – The Orlando Sentinel

The headlines on Amelia Cheatham’s stories at the Orlando Sentinel illustrate the wide range of crime and mayhem she gets to cover every day: Polk County inmate dies while in custody. Clerk thwarts robbery at Orlando 7-Eleven. Man wanted in 2013 murder case arrested in Dominican Republic.

Following leads on law enforcement logs and social media, Cheatham’s role is to keep readers informed of news as it’s happening. Most of her stories cover local crime and law enforcement, though she has also written on the rehabilitation of turtles and Florida’s “Donut Boy.” Though she expected the newsroom to be fast-paced, the sheer velocity of breaking news still surprised her.

Covering breaking news makes her appreciate all the work that it takes to write a story.

“Previously, when I scrolled through headlines in my Facebook feed, I never truly considered the minutes, hours and days of effort someone, somewhere devoted to creating that content,” Cheatham said. “I certainly appreciated journalism as a challenging endeavor; however, I didn’t begin to understand just how tough it can be until I spent a few weeks in a metaphorical reporter’s hat.”

Cheatham, a global health major at Duke, has also been able to find opportunities at the Sentinel to fuse her interests in health and journalism. With the help of her direct editor, Janet Reddick, and the newspaper’s health reporter, Naseem Miller, she has interviewed survivors, a politician, and researchers for a piece on preeclampsia.

Ultimately, the interpersonal aspects of interviewing and reporting on subjects are what she relishes the most.

“I’ve spoken with people in the midst of several emotionally difficult situations, from the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting to the traumatic death of a close friend or relative,” Cheatham said. “It’s gratifying to know that through my journalism, I’m helping to ensure that event or individual is not as easily erased from the public consciousness. I strive to recognize the humanity behind the names on a sheriff’s office press release.”

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