Responsibilities: As an intern, I helped research, report and write stories for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s investigative team.
What was the best part about your summer internship?
Definitely the people. You would think in a newsroom full of journalists constantly hustling and bustling that there wouldn’t be a lot of time for an intern. But, that wasn’t the case at the AJC. Many extremely talented and experienced journalists would take time out of their days to share knowledge at lunch and learn sessions, and several met privately with me for coffee or lunch. The AJC also assigned each intern a mentor. My mentor would check in on me weekly and give me advice on the investigative story I was attempting to tackle or just talk about how I was doing. I really appreciate each of the reporters and editors who took time to invest in me over the summer.
What is the most memorable experience you had during your internship?
I will never forget the endearing smile and joking nature of Ms. Helene Mills, a 90-year-old woman living in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward neighborhood. As an investigative intern, I got to interview Ms. Mills, who was key to showing the impact of the Atlanta Beltline, one of the biggest redevelopment projects in the Southeast, on one of the city’s most impoverish neighborhoods. With property taxes increasing by leaps and bounds in Atlanta over the past few years, people such as Ms. Mills might not be able to remain in their homes. Without enough affordable housing created by the Atlanta Beltline project, Atlanta may become a city for the rich.
Working on this story opened my eyes to how just how much influence investigative journalism can have. The reporting on the Beltline story brought to light critical failures of the Atlanta Beltline Inc., the entity responsible for redeveloping the city around the Beltline, a 49-mile loop of trails. The story also pushed city officials to consider organizational changes at Beltline Inc.
What was the biggest surprise in your internship?
I was surprised by the amount of freedom the AJC offered its interns, in terms of experimenting and trying out different skills in the newsroom. As an investigative intern, my primary role was to work with reporters on larger scale projects, but I was also able to pitch my own stories and work with different teams across the newsroom to get a taste of working on quicker turn around stories.
One of my favorite experiences outside of working on the Beltline project was running around on July 4 interviewing finishers at the AJC Peachtree Road Race. After slowly combing through information for the investigative story, jogging up and down the finish line at the road race and watching out for any breaking news was a welcomed break. These were two very different projects, but each was valuable and taught me to be flexible.
What is the most valuable lesson or skill you learned during your internship?
While working on the Beltline project, I worked under an extremely experienced reporter named Willoughby Mariano. I had the privilege of shadowing Willoughby on some of the more critical interviews. Watching her ease the subjects into telling her information was an incredible sight. As I work on my own stories, I try to use some of the same tactics as she did to make my sources feel more comfortable and open up to me. I also shoot to make my interviews last about an hour, per a tip from Willoughby. She says when she hits the hour mark, she knows the source has really warmed up to her and opened up about the topic.
How did your internship help confirm your desired career path or make you re-evaluate what you want to do in the future?
My internship this summer re-affirmed just how important journalism is to our society and further inspired me to work in this field. Journalists hold powerful people accountable and protect and inform the average citizen. This is what I hope to continue to do in my future as a journalist. I want to use my platform and voice to bring to light injustices and inspire changes that will make this world a little better place to live in.