Pulliam interns embrace real-world reporting experience


College students reflect on jobs at state newspapers

One of Samantha Nower’s favorite stories from her summer internship at the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette was an interview with a CEO whose first job was as a paperboy delivering the JG.

The Ball State student profiled Building Momentum CEO Brad Halsey who was featured in Amazon Prime’s show “Regular Heroes,” a docu-series about essential workers and how they’re helping out during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Brad was a fascinating person to interview. His tech and innovative solutions company produced 2,000 masks a week and built an autonomous robot that could disinfect surfaces using UV-C light,” Nower said.

“I’m so grateful I got to have that experience,” she said.

Nower was one of nine college students selected to participate in the Eugene S. Pulliam Internship Program offered by the HSPA Foundation. Students are paired with Indiana newspapers each year for hands-on, paid opportunities.

Evan Gerike chose a sports story as a standout during his internship at The Times NWI. It was about a group of minor league baseball players gathering for a workout at a local stadium.

In the midst of the pandemic, it was the Indiana University student’s first chance since February to see live sports.

“It also was one of my first chances to go out and report on a sporting event,” Gerike said. “It taught me a lot about how you have to balance reporting details, getting good interviews and filing a story on a deadline from the field.”

Demi Lawrence from Ball State spent five weeks working on a story about the high Black homicide rates in Madison County for the Herald Bulletin in Anderson.

“I truly believe I was able to make some readers stop and consider the real reasons why Black people are unfortunately lost to homicide more than any other race,” Lawrence said. “I learned so much about how to work on a story for weeks on end, how to ask the right questions and how to contextualize records and numbers.”

“Lawrence’s powerhouse story described how Tina Boone-Turner’s grief over her son Brandon’s murder can still make her fall to her hands and knees, praying to God,” said IU professor Tom French, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who served as a mentor for the interns.

French noted the wide range of stories delivered by all the interns during their busy summer.

Franklin College’s Haley Pritchett worked at The Shelbyville News where she wrote more than 50 stories from a dog rescue to a steeple blessing to a column on President Trump’s low opinion of journalists.

IU senior Phil Steinmetz spent his summer on the news desk at the Herald-Times (Bloomington) covering a variety of topics.

One of his pieces focused on two best friends — a 73-year-old woman and a 28-year-old pony.

“This story stuck out to me because I got to spend an afternoon with Mary Ann and Flash and it allowed me to see how much they really depend on each other,” Steinmetz said. “It furthered my understanding on how different relationships work even if it’s not between two people,” he said.

Plainfield native Leanne Stahulak attends Miami University in Ohio. “Profiles are my favorite kind of story because I really get to know and understand the people I’m talking to,” said Stahulak who contributed writing and photography in her storytelling.

Among her stories for the Lebanon Reporter was a profile of farmer Albert Lewis. “I became hooked almost as soon as I started talking to him, wanting to know more about his life and how he got to where he is today,” she said.

The pandemic provided a backdrop for many of the interns stories. IU’s Joey Bowling wrote a feature for the Corydon Democrat about visitation tentatively resuming at an area nursing home. The IU senior expanded his skill set and also contributed photos during his internship.

IU’s Joe Schroeder also covered nursing home visitations along with a virtual 4-H fair and enforcement of a mask ordinance for the Brown County Democrat.

Ball State’s Jacob Musselman wrote a column during his internship at the News Sun (Kendallville) about covering protests in Fort Wayne that unfolded in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.

“I will never forget May 30 and 31. I will never forget the smell of tear gas or how it made my eyes burn. I will never forget seeing the fear in people’s eyes when police in full riot gear walk toward them,” Musselman wrote.

“I will never forget the people who acted as paramedics and helped the people who got hurt. I will never forget how I made it home safe.”