Summary: The primary focus of my activity is to serve the community that is South Seattle Emerald's readership. This community includes many different categories and intersections of marginalized people and so in that sense I'm going to make it a point that every article I write does a service for the many different groups in the community by letting them be at the center. I've been named the homelessness & city hall beat by my editor, Marcus Green, who is also my supervisor. In so doing, I am expected to pursue 1) a rather daunting investigative piece 2) homelessness (individually and broadly) and 3) pieces that don't mimic mainstream media. I'm also experimenting with inserting my writing voice in the pieces per Marcus Green's advice.
Honors values: South Seattle Emerald is a nonprofit organization and is still in a growing, start-up-like stage. I've been freelancing with them for about a year, so I know the publication and their goals well. At a group meeting with most of my coworkers, Marcus reiterated that we need to "do things the Emerald way," by which he meant "we are humans first, and journalists second." This actually goes quite against traditional journalism. I'm not only serving those who get to talk at the public through my pieces, but will hopefully do a service by being a point of reference for creating systemic solution-based change as directed by the very people it affects. This internship began June 15. For the first time, I've seen my pieces make impact in real time.
Hopes & explanation: The publication was founded out-of-pocket by Marcus having once met a teenager who said he didn't like anything about South Seattle or himself because "they say there's nothing good" - by 'they' he meant the media. Days later, he died in a shooting. That's the raw roots of South Seattle Emerald. That unhindered, real-life experience is what South Seattle Emerald tries to stop. This is why I chose this engagement, this is the service I want to do for the rest of my life. People need to know they matter, and media is one powerful way of making sure of that. If nothing else, I don't necessarily care what skills I gain, but instead care about the change I make with my pieces - be it in micro or macro ways. What I hope to experience: growth.
Coursework connection: This internship lets me expand beyond the traditional views of journalism and experiment more with my writing voice. That being said, I still have to apply everything I've learned to real life situations (in a much more intense, and unfamiliar way than the journalism program itself). I will be working closely with those directly affected by homelessness, incarceration, and mental illness. Previously, I approached homelessness through a more political, analytical perspective when I reported on the Legislature. This time, it's a much more on-the-ground, hands-on approach, where my stories are explicitly serving those who are the most marginalized and need the most help. Their stories must be brought to the public eye and heard by officials.
Contribution to organization's goals: South Seattle Emerald is a platform that authentically depicts the dynamic voices, culture, arts, ideas, and businesses within South Seattle's borders. The Emerald is news as it was originally intended to be: not as business or a forum for propaganda, but as a service to the community it chronicles. I think the key words here are "authentically," "dynamic," and "service." My contributions to the Emerald adheres to these ideals and goals, requiring a constant self awareness as a privileged, white person in order for the authenticity of these very real stories to be told. Every article I write, I work closely with Marcus making sure there's not some part I'm missing or some way it could be expanded to have a greater effect.
Now that my internship with South Seattle Emerald has come to a close, I believe my answers were pretty spot-on to what I ended up learning, but my initial answers didn't quite hit the depth of my experience in the end. Again, I had freelanced with the publication for approximately a year prior to the internship so I was very familiar with how things worked and what to expect.
When it comes to my work at the Emerald, one part I didn't quite expect was the chance to possibly be an editor for the next batch of interns. If this happens, it will take me a step further in my coursework of journalism, and my career, because I haven't really had an editor position before, but have done editing for fellow peers many times.
I certainly see myself continuing to work with the organization. At the very least, I will continue being a freelancer for South Seattle Emerald. The publication did offer me a full-time job for when I graduate, however. While I want to keep my options open, that job offer will certainly hold quite a bit of weight on my considerations when the time comes. I have a pretty strong feeling I will always report on homelessness. I will always report on societal and systemic racism. While working with the publication, however, I've also discovered that I'd like to continue reporting on Native American rights and issues within American government and society. The same goes for Muslim Americans.
This project has really made me value community. I learned that when it comes to journalism and the pieces I produce, the most important part of that is impact.
One of my articles - "Employees describe slipping into homelessness while at REI" - had a very unexpected reaction from the public sphere, from my fellow journalists, and even from officials at city hall. I was the only reporter to cover the issue right off the bat, and it blew up more than I thought it would, making Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant schedule a one-on-one meeting with REI CEO Jerry Stritzke. Then, not too long after, REI announced some changes to its scheduling and such after my article came out and more pressure was put on the co-op to do something. Some of REI's customers even contacted me or commented on the article saying they would no longer be members of REI because of what they learned from my coverage. Then, quite some time later, the secure scheduling bill passed in Seattle (which the REI issue definitely added fire to).
That was an incredibly pivotal moment. It made me realize that we need to go where the silence is. Going to the silence, and using the right tactics on social media and within our own personal networks, articles can very much right injustices. Articles can also make people feel validated when they're typically undermined and wrongly categorized in mainstream media. Both of these things are equally impacting and powerful.
The investigative piece I was tasked with for this internship is still in the works, but has most certainly come a long way from where I began. That being said, as with most investigative pieces, there's been a lot of twists and turns, letdowns and excitements. Dare I say, the first piece of it is almost finished. I will continue working on this piece past my internship.
When it comes to expressing the importance and value this internship had for me, I really don't know how to put it into words. But let this reflection be an attempt to do so - although I still find it inadequate. Community journalism is perhaps one of the most tangible pieces of impact there is, and the reciprocal relationships that come out of it are beyond words. Beyond words.
As an organization we could not have asked for a better intern than Kelsey Hamlin. Her ability to go beyond the fast story, to tell the "full" story was exceptional. Kelsey excelled at doing a deep dive into her assignments, fleshing out articles, and providing a comprehensive take that has come to be expected by our readership. Kelsey works hard, attempts to improve her blind spots, and has a passion for journalism that can not be taught. We hope to be able to offer her a full-time position as soon as her studies at the University are complete.