Story by Junnelle Hogen
Photos by Molly Smith, courtesy of the Statesman Journal
Editor’s note: This is the third in a five-part series of posts written by Charles Snowden Excellence in Journalism interns. Read the first two posts in the series, “Developing my T-shaped skills at OPB” by Shirley Chan and “How the Baker City Herald helped me escape my bubble” by Forrest Welk.
I navigated the steps leading to the second floor of a Woodburn apartment complex. A woman ushered me inside and led the way to confined seating in a small living room. As she rocked her 2-year-old son, fresh-eyed from a nap, she began to cry.
She was born in Oregon, part of a tight-knit Latino community. Her father was deported in her childhood, and she grew up with one parent. She fell in love with a man who escaped from poverty and gang violence in Mexico, trying to capture the American dream for his mother, his siblings and himself.
Her husband had one deportation on his record. He worked 60 hours a week, six days a week, for contractors in the farms up and down the Willamette Valley who paid him and a bevy of fellow undocumented workers subminimum wages.
Sometimes he told his wife she should have married someone else — someone who could find work easily, someone who could help take care of the family.
“I chose you,” she replied.
I was introduced to this community in June, when a tied vote in the Supreme Court halted DAPA and DACA+, two programs that would have expanded legal status for the undocumented population. In Oregon, tens of thousands of undocumented individuals were potentially affected. I interviewed people on all sides of the issue and headed to Woodburn for a meeting at the headquarters of Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, the largest Latino labor union in the state.
I have been conducting these interviews as an intern with the Statesman Journal through the Charles Snowden Excellence in Journalism internship program. Prior to this internship, I worked and held internships at several print, radio and podcasting outlets while finishing my degree at the University of Oregon.
The Woodburn story is one of a series of new and challenging topics I tackled this summer. I also submitted over 10 public records requests and successfully challenged fees. This led to an investigative series on city and county wages, among other stories.
I covered an in-depth story on the roots of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Oregon, and when the story was picked up by the AP and spread through more than 20 papers on the East Coast, I responded to dozens of phone calls, connecting relatives with decades-old history.
In keeping with my radio background, I rolled out a weekly podcast cohosted by Statesman Journal executive editor Michael Davis, using web and mobile metrics to assemble a weekly roundup of news.
I also interviewed dispensary owners across Polk and Marion counties, covering the post-prohibition expansion of recreational marijuana in Oregon. My reporting primed me to cover the first marijuana fair in Oregon, at the Oregon State Fairgrounds, and the story I wrote was published verbatim by USA Today — one of the perks of working for a USA Today newspaper.
Unlike some of my peers, I had prior experience working in Oregon newsrooms. However, as someone who stepped into the professional workplace at a younger age than most, I continue to find myself picking up tidbits of wisdom as I continue.
In the midst of juggling daily news with unique content, my internship has taught me several things.
I have found that traditional news forms are changing. Some newspapers still prefer a hard-hitting lede and a pyramid structure for bread-and-butter news, but if page views indicate anything, strong headlines and story-friendly layouts also draw large crowds.
As I have learned from insightful journalists, time is never wasted pursuing valuable connections. If I want to reflect the community, I need to understand the community. This summer, I took time to hone my sources. As a result, the best story ideas I received came from outside the newsroom.
I learned that borrowing from the best is not audacious — it’s wise. Good journalism can be produced by dint of emulation. I find reading good copy inspires good copy, whether the inspiring content comes from New York Times writer Andrea Elliott or the investigative team of reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I also love to write long-form fiction, and I am never more inspired than after closing the jacket end on Graham Greene’s “The Quiet American” or William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury.”
As a Snowden intern, I have realized I still have much to learn. I am continuously impressed by the level of insight and dedication veteran journalists have put to their craft.
However, if anything, this summer has taught me youth is not always detrimental. It is OK to be the fresh-faced cub swinging into a wind of injustice and deafening silence. It is OK to be overly idealistic and impassioned about life. It is OK to learn new things.
Despite gaps in experience, intern reporters can still latch onto stories that have slipped through the cracks. Interns can pursue with tenacity the stories that others have tossed or let go of with time.
Interns may not forge the unformed consciousness of our time, to borrow from Stephen Dedalus’ melodramatic phrasing. But little by little, young journalists can counter ignorance with truth and indifference with some form of impetus.
Words have weight. Journalists are in the business of using them wisely. And mastering that craft will likely be a lifelong occupation.
Junnelle Hogen is an aspiring multimedia and investigative journalist entering her senior year at the University of Oregon. This summer she is working as a full-time reporter for the Statesman Journal, as a Charles Snowden intern. As an early college student, Hogen has been working and interning in journalism since she was 15, when she got her start in radio at KBND News Station. Since then, she has interned and worked for Cascade Journal, The Broadside, FishDuck.com, Ethos magazine and a professional copy editing company. In the summer of 2015, she lived in London and contributed to the UK-based international podcasting outlet Podium.me. In the last year, Hogen held a six-month internship at another Snowden partner, The Register-Guard, where she produced numerous stories that were picked up by the Associated Press. She interned for the national American Copy Editors Society conference in April and will be interning for the national Excellence in Journalism conference this September. This fall, she will assist Professor Lori Shontz with an Agora Research Center fellowship developing strategies for media response to tragedies. In her spare time, Hogen collects musty classics, butchers opera, listens to folk music, plans trip itineraries, kayaks and escapes into the great outdoors. You can follow her on Twitter @JunnelleH.