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Honors Tutorial College

Student Spotlight: Will Drabold

Alisa Warren | Oct 1, 2015
Will Drabold stands in front of the Seattle Times building as a David Boardman investigative intern.
Will Drabold stands in front of the Seattle Times building as a David Boardman investigative intern.

Working alongside a Pulitzer Prize winning investigations team at The Seattle Times, Will Drabold realized his dreams while spending a summer immersing himself in the world of true investigative reporting.

Drabold, a senior studying journalism in the Honors Tutorial College, was a David Boardman Investigative Reporting Intern. He was the only intern on the investigations team, being only the second in the newspaper’s history.

Treated as a new member of the staff as opposed to a novice intern, he noted that there was no formal training or orientation upon arrival. In fact, he was already working on a story a month before the internship began, which he continued working on for the duration of the summer.

“I was literally just told, ‘go investigate, go do this,’” he said.

Drabold was on the investigative team in the sense that he was only assigned to work on a handful of stories during his time in Seattle, instead of producing multiple per week as in his other reporting experiences.

“The stories were ambitious and challenging,” he said. “One of them tried to reveal how the Navy is concealing and stopping development in a major waterway near the Puget Sound near Seattle. The second one found that people who screw up egregiously and allow kids to die or allow kids to suffer severe injuries at the hands of their caregivers when the kids are in the state foster care system, never get fired.”

Covering such hot-button issues led to two radio interviews at the Seattle NPR station, as well as some outspoken objections from critics of his work, truly giving him a glimpse of what it is like to investigate controversial topics.

“Since I had not done these kinds of stories before, it was more difficult for me than I had expected to deal with the personal, anti-Will backlash that came with some of these stories,” he said.

Having no formal experience specifically in the kind of reporting he was conducting, Drabold expressed his gratitude in being able to learn how to write such a story from Pulitzer Prize winners who were willing and more than able to teach him how.

Drabold also said that after the experiences gained from this internship, he hesitates to call himself an investigative reporter — not because he doubts his abilities, but because he has opened his eyes to what the act of true investigating entails.

“We should all be telling those kinds of stories,” he said. “But I’d be lying if I didn’t say they’re not all truly investigative stories that are written a certain way and have declarative statements and definitive findings and are told to in a certain way.  And knowing how to write those is undoubtedly a skill that I did not have before the summer."

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