Roselyn Romero, senior at California Polytechnic State University, thought she wouldn’t do anything last summer.
That was until she stumbled upon the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, which helped her land a funded summer internship.
Based at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, the Ida B. Wells Society is an organization dedicated to training journalists and editors of color, particularly in investigative journalism. Michael Jordan and Jordan Brand’s Black Community Commitment recently donated a million dollar grant to the company, which will help fund future opportunities for Romero and other young journalists.
In addition to expanding summer internship offerings like Romero’s, the grant will fund two new programs. The first is an All-Star Investigative Summer J-Camp, where high school students from predominantly black and Latin schools will participate in a training program in partnership with a historically black college in North Carolina. It will also support a one-year investigative reporting project at Riverside High School in Durham, with local and national journalists accompanying students through the process.
Thinking about what she wanted to do this summer, Romero knew she wanted a new challenge. She started looking for internships with the national media.
But she ran into problems filling out applications.
“I didn’t have the connections, basically,” Romero said. “I didn’t know who the hiring managers were. I didn’t know who to send my cover letters to.
Something as simple as the listing of Ida B. Wells Society internship opportunities on their website was an eye opener, she said. She was amazed that the company tweeted job alerts for survey opportunities, making the tools it needed much more accessible.
Through the company, Romero applied for and secured an internship position with the Associated Press Global Investigations team.
Finally, her new challenge had come – but how would she get there?
Enter Ron Nixon, leader of the AP’s Global Investigation Team and co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society. Romero remembers that Nixon watched her almost every day during the internship.
It was Nixon who suggested Romero change his original story on heat-related deaths among California farm workers and instead pursue an investigation into fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine cards.
“Working on survey stories takes weeks and tons of spreadsheets to put together enough data or information to get a feel for the story,” Romero said. “So I was like, pivot?” What do you mean by pivot? “
This pivot earned Romero his first signing with the AP. In response to his story, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called for a crackdown on counterfeit cards.
Romero’s internship experience illustrates the high-quality opportunities that Ida B. Wells aims to create for young journalists of color. The Jordan Brand’s $ 1 million grant will help the organization continue what it does – and more.
Ida B. Wells CEO Rhema Bland said the new programs’ focus on youth engagement was what excited Jordan Brand representatives the most when they heard the proposal from. the society.
Riverside High School was chosen because of its racial diversity – the school is 29.9% Black, 37.7% Hispanic, and 26.1% White – and it offered a local option for the project be prosecuted in person.
But what struck the company, Bland said, was Riverside journalism professor Bryan Christopher. passion for student journalism and commitment to diversifying the investigative reporting pipeline.
Christopher saw the demographics of the school and tried to create a press staff representative of the school’s diversity. He said he believed the project could have a huge impact on his students, giving them role models that looked like them.
“I think it looks different than when they see me, a 37-year-old white man,” Christopher said. “It’s different when they see truly exceptional journalists who are like them and develop a personal relationship.”
Bland said expanding these new programs will take some time, but the grant allows them to plan several camps and projects at different high schools across the country.
This kind of reach, Nixon believes, is key to the mission of the Ida B. Wells Society.
“We’re talking about diversity, it can’t just be numbers,” Nixon said. “(It) means expanding the pool of people you recruit from. So you didn’t just hit Yale or Columbia. Hit (City Universities of New York) and hit HBCUs like Howard and Morgan State.
Romero felt the lack of reach when looking for internships. She thinks it’s because the superiors don’t really seek to widen their nets and are content to make room for their loved ones.
“If we want to diversify newsrooms, we have to work like the Ida B. Wells Society to give these opportunities to journalists of color and encourage people from historically disadvantaged communities to continue investigative work,” Romero said.
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