2023 Pulliam interns sharpen reporting skills at newspapers across Indiana
This summer, Kyle Smedley followed the Madison-Grant High School softball team on its journey to the semistate semifinals. The team’s 26-5 season ended with a hard loss and Smedley took his readers all the way through the tough, post-game huddle with teary-eyed players and a coach determined to steer the athletes, who he viewed as 20 daughters, through a good, final conversation. Smedley, a student at Ball State University, covered the Argylls for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson where he’s been serving as one of seven college journalists in this year’s Eugene S. Pulliam Internship
Each year, students from across the state are matched with papers by the HSPA Foundation for a nine-week, paid opportunity through the program named in honor of the late publisher of The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis News.
Smedley was the news editor at his campus paper, the Daily News, last year and also covered sports year round.
In Anderson, Smedley has worked mainly with the sports department. When his internship started earlier this summer Smedley said he was covering high school sports — baseball, softball, tennis — going somewhere new five, six days a week. Since high school sports slowed down, Smedley has been focusing on features.
“These indepth features have been a really nice chance to be able to hone in on a particular person,” Smedley said.
Smedley said he’ll be finishing up his internship in late July. He said he’s been impressed by the amount of content the newsroom in Anderson produces and has enjoyed working in a professional, efficient environment with George Bremer and Rob Hunt on the sports desk.
This fall, Smedley will serve as sports editor at the Daily News and looks forward to applying what he learned at The Herald Bulletin — prioritizing doing the best work his staff can possibly produce just like he’s seen in the Anderson newsroom.
“Kyle’s doing a great job for us,” said Scott Underwood, editor at The Herald Bulletin. “He is, as many of the interns we’ve had from this program, really well prepared for it and enthusiastic.”
Underwood said he wants interns to have an opportunity to learn, experience the newsroom culture and leave with great clips.
The interns have a lot to offer a newspaper, too. The students are coming out of college environments with immersive programs and they come with fresh ideas and questions, Underwood said.
“That’s one of the reasons I love hosting interns — we grow from it,” Underwood said.
For the second year, Mary Dieter is serving as the HSPA mentor for the interns. Dieter is a freelance writer and editor who, during her 45-year career, worked at the Louisville Courier Journal and as director of media relations at DePauw University.
In guiding the students, Dieter said she emphasizes tenets the young journalists need to follow for the rest of their lives.
“A lot has changed in journalism since I was a reporter but certain things never change,” Dieter said.
The need to pursue accuracy and all sides of the story, knowing AP style, listening well and adhering to a strict ethical code are among the principles she covers.
Dieter has been meeting via Zoom with the interns since May 31 where they share their experiences and talk about enduring topics in journalism. She’s also available to consult with them individually to work through angles for stories, issues with sources and story ideas. She’s a resource above and beyond the editors at their assigned newsrooms.
“I want to be there for whatever reason they might need me,” Dieter said.
She said the news industry is facing challenges but working with aspiring journalists is encouraging.
“When you see bright-eyed, smart young people who are really dedicated to the craft, it’s heartening,” Dieter said.
Christina Avery, a student at Indiana University, returned to her hometown of Jeffersonville at the News and Tribune for her Pulliam internship.
Avery has covered stories about Juneteenth, the city and county councils, mental health in the Black community and an animal shelter volunteer.
“I really like getting to see my hometown through a new lens,” Avery said.
One of her favorite pieces was an enterprise story in June for Pride Month exploring how local LGBTQ people practice their faith and initiatives that local churches are doing to be accepting and affirming.
Avery is a reporter at IU’s Indiana Daily Student. She said this internship has been challenging and invigorating.
“I’m finding that my passion for what I do is reignited when I get to do it in a new way, in a new format,” Avery said.
Interns will gain real world experience covering a community that they can take back to their college newsrooms and their careers beyond, News and Tribune editor Daniel Suddeath said.
At the News and Tribune, they’ve also made a point to give Avery a comprehensive sense of how a newspaper works top to bottom, from budget meetings and how classifieds are done to getting the publication to the post office.
“We want it to be a robust experience for the intern,” Suddeath said.
Avery is the first Pulliam intern the News and Tribune has had in about five years, Suddeath said. Southern Indiana is vibrant and growing and there is a lot to cover. Having an intern helps in a newsroom, like every other, that’s smaller than it used to be.
“Having someone who can step in and fill those gaps is a huge benefit for us,” Suddeath said.
The Herald Bulletin has had a Pulliam intern several years in a row. The application process is easy and Underwood said other newsrooms would benefit from having newsroom interns.
Indiana newspapers will have an opportunity later this fall to apply for summer 2024 Pulliam interns.
“It’s more than a win, win, win,” Underwood said. “It’s just a bunch of wins with no losses.”