NU-Q Students Complete Internships with Global Media Organizations Remotely

April 07, 2020

The global pandemic COVID-19 has not stopped NU-Q students from completing internships as part of their undergraduate academic program. The Journalism and Strategic Communication Residency program – a requirement for a journalism degree from Northwestern's Medill School – offers students real-world experience working for international news media and strategic communications organizations.

“Northwestern’s residency program is unique in higher education and helps our students to begin the transition from being a student to working as professionals in media and strategic communications,” said NU-Q Dean Craig LaMay. “This year, that experience means that our students are now working – alongside other professionals – remotely from their homes.”

For students Saad Ejaz, Inaara Gangji, Hanmin Kim, and Amadou Jallow, this has meant leaving New York and Washington, D.C., to go back to their homes in Pakistan, Tanzania, South Korea, and the Gambia, where they are continuing to write for top-ranked media outlets including The Guardian, USA Today, Voice of America, and Widmeyer Communications.

Other students, including Shafaq Zia and Manan Bhavnani, remain in Boston and Washington, D.C., where they are working remotely with STAT and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

A handful of other students who were interning as multimedia and video content producers have returned home where they have taken on new internship opportunities with media organizations in their country.

“I am so proud of how well our students have handled their residencies and the transition to remote work,” said Mary Dedinsky, professor and director of the Journalism and Strategic Communication Program. “They were thrown into a crisis; they were resilient, professional, and full of ideas of how they could continue to work remotely.”

Reporting on science and medicine during COVID-19

Zia, is continuing to work with STAT, a media company that reports on health, medicine, and scientific discovery, from her apartment in Boston. She has covered an array of scientific and health-focused topics that include immunotherapy, tips to protect the elderly in the time of coronavirus, and the relationship between ER visits and vocabulary on Facebook.

Zia noticed a spike in the number of subscriptions to STAT as a result of the COVID-19. “The number of new subscribers per week almost quadrupled in the last couple of weeks, which I attribute to the important need for trusted news and information on the virus – good and accurate journalism is extremely important today,” she said.

Global reporting

Several students chose to return home for the remainder of their internships and continue their work remotely. Ejaz is reporting for The Guardian’s New York City office from his family’s home in Pakistan. During his time in New York, he researched and wrote articles for the publication’s “Fight to Vote” series. One of his first stories dealt with the disenfranchisement of minority public school students in suburban East Ramapo, New York. Another examined prison gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, a practice involving local politicians who create voting districts by counting prison populations who don’t have the right to vote.

"I've been given a lot of room to pitch my ideas and stories," Ejaz said. When advocating for a topic, he considered “has it been done before? What angle can I take? You’ve got to be able to sell it to your editor.”

Gangji is interning with USA Today from her home in Tanzania.  She reports to the digital content editor and researches and pitches ideas relating to crime and policing. Once an idea is approved, Gangji identifies and invites outside topic experts to write online opinion pieces. She also fact-checks their submissions.

Gangji credits her liberal arts classes at NU-Q for having “taught me to challenge the status quo and think about things beyond just crime… One isolated incident has an impact on the larger society.”

Also adjusting to remote work from his home in South Korea, Kim, who is interning at Voice of America, which distributes news and information in over 40 languages to an estimated weekly global audience of 280 million people. He has covered the COVID-19 outbreak, creating 30 to 40-second videos about the coronavirus for distribution on VOA’s Instagram platform. The process included culling important news nuggets from VOA Asia, a daily 25-minute show, writing scripts and securing footage from the Associated Press and Reuters.

Jallow is interning at Widmeyer Communications, a New York-based public affairs firm, from his home in The Gambia. At Widmeyer he has helped prepare two strategy documents dealing with improving educational performance. The first assessed how funding affects education quality in nations around the world, including the U.S., Cuba, Sweden, Japan, Uganda and Jallow’s native Gambia. The second examined the history of national exam performance in the US for grades four and eight.

Despite the unusual global circumstances, the Northwestern residency program continued to provide a unique opportunity for NU-Q students to sharpen their writing, reporting, and communication skills working in a real-world environment. To read published articles and stories filed by the students, visit @NUQresidency on Twitter.