Medill on the Hill students immerse themselves in political coverage in Washington, DC

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Medill’s sophomore year Mikayla Denault wanted to be a political reporter since she was a teenager. Now she reports on protests in Washington, DC and quotes US MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-MO) through the Medill on the Hill program.

Denault is one of 14 journalism students who will cover the US government for the Medill News Service in Washington this fall. In the autumn of this year, the program was resumed after a break of one and a half years.

Students at Medill on the Hill are fully immersed in the reporting process for a full quarter. They attend newsroom meetings, write daily and in-depth stories, and promote social media news, according to program director and Medill professor Ellen Shearer, who is also head of the School of Journalism’s Washington Bureau. Outside the newsroom, students are enrolled in the subjects of journalism and political science.

According to Shearer, the program gives students the opportunity to practice reporting around the best journalists in the business.

“Students get great stories,” Shearer said. “Working in the area gives (students) the opportunity to really build their own confidence and storytelling skills.”

As a broadcast journalist, Denault said the personal reporting was a highlight of her experience. Reporting hearings, protests, and other events has helped her build her portfolio, she said.

Hannah Jiang, a sophomore at Medill, said she appreciated the program’s proximity to international news.

Jiang reported on the women’s march on Saturday. On the march, she spoke to activists for a long story she is currently working on on reproductive rights in communities of Asian-American and Pacific islanders.

“It was just amazing to talk to people on the street in the heart of politics. It was great, ”said Jiang.

Shearer said there were several COVID-19 precautions in place, including local mask requirements and attendance restrictions at hearings and meetings. Although navigating the pandemic-era precautions was challenging, she said the program coordinators and students are adjusting well.

Former director of Medill Washington Programs Joie Chen, who attended Medill on the Hill as a student, said the program shaped her career. She added that Washington was a great city for budding journalists to develop their skills.

“I hope the reopening of the DC program is a sign that the current Medill leadership is realizing the importance of learning about Washington,” Chen said in an email to the Daily. “It is important for the careers of Medill students and it is important for democracy that the next generation of journalists learn how it really works here.”

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