EDITOR’S NOTE: With internship, Salem Reporter will help train next generation

A passion of mine is helping young journalists.

The profession sorely needs new talent.

We need reporters who live by high standards. We need journalists determined to help society by informing society.

But the number of jobs in this profession has been shrinking for decades. No one should be surprised that educated, energetic people look at journalism and say “No thanks.” Marketing, nonprofit work, or even government communications work seems more secure.

That’s why was I so delighted when the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication came calling.

Would we like to host an intern at Salem Reporter?

This is no routine internship. Young journalists are picked through a rigorous process to be selected for the prestigious Snowden internship. Students from any Oregon colleges can apply. Not many make it – there will be 20 in the class of 2023, scattered among daily newspapers, public broadcasting and television stations.

At the same time, not every news organization can just say “send me help.” The School of Journalism and Communication is just as selective about which news teams it trusts to train these young journalists. That’s why we’re fortunate at Salem Reporter to be counted in for the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism.

This week, I finally got to meet (virtually) the journalist coming to us this summer. Allow me to introduce her to you.

Natalie Sharp is finishing her junior year at Oregon State University.

She is majoring in public policy with a minor in journalism, posting a 3.99 GPA. She’s been an OSU student senator and participates in the University Legislative Scholars Program, getting deep learning about Oregon’s legislative process.

Along the way, Sharp said, she has realized that journalists can play an important role in public policy. Reporting on government processes helps people learn and then participate, she told me. She writes regularly for Beaver’s Digest, an OSU lifestyle production.

The fact the Snowden team recommended her was key for me. At my newspaper in Vale, the Malheur Enterprise, we have hosted one or two Snowden journalists for several years. Ardeshir Tabrizian, now the criminal justice reporter at Salem Reporter, was one of them. To a person, these young journalists have been hard working, determined to learn, attentive to lessons, and willingly adapting to the professional standards I set.

Sharp will spend 10 weeks working full time – and paid – with our team. She is keenly interested in social justice issues, and we intend to put that interest to work in myriad ways this summer.

I provide these summer journalists a detailed memo outlining what’s expected and what the summer will hold. They will learn everything from how to accurately write a story in a hurry on a breaking news event to fairly digging into a community controversy. In exchange for her work and energy, our team is committed to helping Sharp learn the skills of a professional.

My ambition is that Sharp leaves Salem Reporter in August with advanced skills and a commitment to journalistic integrity. Just as important, I hope she leaves her time in Salem still eager to stay in journalism and be part of the next generation helping you and all readers untangle the complexities of today’s world.

This is a big step for Salem Reporter, and we could use help in covering Sharp’s costs for the summer. The university will cover about half the cost. If you feel motivated to help this young journalist, or if you’re a Beaver fan, or if you just believe in the vitality of public policy, a donation of $50, $100 or more would help as we try to gather up $3,000. You can donate online here.

Beginning mid-June, watch for Sharp’s byline and know that she’s working shoulder-to-shoulder with our team to bring you stories you otherwise wouldn’t get.

Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].

STORY TIP OR IDEA? Send an email to Salem Reporter’s news team: [email protected].

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Les Zaitz is editor and CEO of Salem Reporter. He co-founded the news organization in 2018. He has been a journalist in Oregon for nearly 50 years in both daily and community newspapers and digital news services. He is nationally recognized for his commitment to local journalism. He also is editor and publisher of the Malheur Enterprise in Vale, Oregon.