By Uma Bhat, CISLM intern
The Final Four game was playing the next day, featuring a fierce match-up between UNC and Duke – but amidst the chaos of basketball season, about 30 UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media students logged on to Zoom to learn about local news from experts in the field.
The UNC Center for Innovation and Sustainability in Local Media (CISLM) hosted its first-ever Local News Internship Career Fair in conjunction with the UNC Hussman School of Journalism & Media’s Career Services on March 25 and April 1.
The two-part series brought together UNC journalism students with journalists from local news organizations that have been through the UNC-Knight Foundation Table Stakes Initiative, a program that helps news organizations across the Southeast identify challenges and create sustainable solutions to survive and thrive in the digital age.
Panelists hailed from ABC-11/WTVD, The Assembly, NC Health News, The Montgomery Advertiser, Louisville Public Media, QCity Metro, The Charlotte Post and Substantial Magazine.
Bringing together Hussman students — some of the best journalism students in the country — and local news organizations who care about the future of journalism is a goal of the center, said Erica Perel, CISLM director and an alum of The Charlotte Observer.
“I do believe that high-quality local news coverage can help a community see itself and empowers members of that community to act and engage to make things better,” Perel said.
More than 60 students signed up to attend the webinars. Natalie Varma, a UNC first-year student who attended, said the event was helpful in offering information on career development opportunities.
“It was really beneficial getting to talk to people who are active in the field because it gave me a glimpse of what a career in journalism would really be like,” Varma said.
Each session featured an introduction by the CISLM staff and a run-down of the internship process by Jay Eubank, UNC Hussman Career Services director. Panelists shared information about their organization’s values, work culture and internship application process.
Perel said that her own college internships with local news outlets proved to be an invaluable foundation for her career in journalism, with more hands-on reporting opportunities than those that would perhaps be offered at national outlets.
“I never got anybody coffee, and I never spent a day at my desk rewriting a press release,” Perel said. “I was out in the community doing reporting.”
Paige Windsor, Executive Editor of The Montgomery Advertiser, encouraged students to apply regardless of interests or background.
“The sky is the limit,” Windsor said. “If there’s something that you want to do, I encourage you to apply to internships.”
Local news outlets, in particular, are unique in their ability to connect consumers and journalists with their community, said Nicole Hare-Hill, nightside executive producer at ABC-11/WTVD.
“I think if you watch the national news or read a national newspaper you’re getting an umbrella of what’s going on in the world when you’re on the local level, I can tell you …” Hare-Hill said. “You know how many COVID cases are in a zip code, and why you need to get the resources out there to get people vaccinated and safe – you drill down into the local level to help people.”