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Statehouse News Bureau offers students political reporting experience

Apr 29, 2014

The spring semester Ohio University statehouse interns were recognized at reception on Wed., April 2. Pictured are Will Drabold, course director Tom Suddes, Caleigh Bourgeois and Sam Howard. / Dispatch Photo by Barbara J. Perenic

Statehouse News Bureau offers students political reporting experience

By Kerry Tuttle

ATHENS, Ohio (April 29, 2014)—The E.W. Scripps School of Journalism established a Statehouse News Bureau program in September 2011 and, three years later, it continues to enhance the education of journalism majors at Ohio University while raising the reputation of the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University throughout the state.

The program partners with Ohio’s leading news organizations to offer qualified undergraduates a paid semester internship covering public affairs in Columbus, Ohio. Students enrolled in the fellowship receive course credit and are published on their respective news organization’s outlets. Their stories are also made available to the Associated Press and members of the Ohio News Organization, composed of the eight largest newspapers in Ohio.

Three Ohio University students, Sam Howard, Will Drabold and Caleigh Bourgeois, were the most recent Statehouse News Bureau fellows in spring semester. Professor Thomas Suddes, Ph.D., serves as the course instructor.

“The Scripps School’s Statehouse News Bureau fellowships offer students the chance to work at a Statehouse covered by the largest single concentration of experienced, able, savvy – and competitive –public affairs reporters in Ohio,” said Suddes. “What’s more, the Statehouse is a kind of scale model of the assumptions that underpin how Ohioans, for that matter, all Americans, say they should work our differences of opinion and address public needs. There cannot be a better place to test those assumptions, under real, every day, partisan conditions, than a state capitol.”

Howard and Drabold, both studying journalism in the Honors Tutorial College, have specific interests in writing about politics and public affairs. “Interest in politics is our background. We both grew up reading The Plain Dealer and The Columbus Dispatch so this was an incredible opportunity. I first heard about the fellowship fall semester of my freshman year and I knew it was something I had to do before I graduated,” said Howard.

Howard was stationed at the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Columbus Bureau and wrote for NEO Media Group, while Drabold interned at the Columbus Dispatch and Bourgeois interned at Ohio Public Radio/TV.

“I’ve always been a very political person,” said Drabold. “When I was in high school I worked on the Ted Strickland campaign, but I got away from that and got involved at The Post. I like the reporting and journalism side of it. I think getting the truth is important. There’s not just a place for it, there’s a need for it and that’s where reporting comes in.”

The two interns recently completed a capstone project to conclude their time in Columbus. The project is essentially a major, in-depth article that may involve lengthy records requests and weeks of trying to access information.

“The biggest eye opener for me has been the value of getting raw numbers and the public information and doing the behind the scenes legwork. Everything has been ten times more complex up here than it has been with me reporting on stuff in Athens. Navigating public information has been the big takeaway and trying to uncover the actual facts,” said Howard. 

Drabold adds, “The people at the Dispatch and the people who are the sources are not treating me like I’m 19 years old. We are dealing with billion dollar budgets & the public image. Everyone has a job to do.”

Bourgeois said her experience taught her how to be a multifaceted journalist able to cover stories on her own. 

“The Statehouse Fellowship was an incredibly rewarding experience,” she said. “I gained experience reporting as a one-woman-band TV correspondent. I covered everything from the State of the State address to new legislation to court rulings. It was a great way to wrap up my collegiate experience and I’d recommend it to my fellow classmates.”

Scholarship support for students in the program is provided by The Dispatch and the Scripps Howard Foundation, based in Cincinnati. This partnership with the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism has proved to be extremely beneficial for students, for the journalism school and for Scripps College to showcase the talent of Ohio University’s aspiring journalists.

“For students, it’s one of the best applications of Scripps Howard Foundation money,” said Drabold. “I’m incredibly thankful to the Foundation for funding this because the fact that we’re being paid to get this experience and advice is great.”

Drabold and Howard, who were roommates in Columbus, plan to use their experience at the Statehouse to land their dream jobs, together.

“Our goal is to be dual correspondents for the New York Times covering international politics,” Howard said in answer to future plans. “We’ll be running the bureau in Cairo in 30 years.”

For additional information about the Statehouse News Bureau, contact Professor Tom Suddes at suddes@ohio.edu.