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Alumni Contributions

Internship helps CDAA scholarship recipient escape the college “bubble”

Ali Sullivan is a third-year student double majoring in Government and Media Studies, and a recipient of a Cavalier Daily Alumni Association scholarship. She interned last summer at Charlottesville Tomorrow, and recounts her experience here.

Although I have loved my time at U.Va., I felt trapped at times in the college “bubble.” So when I was searching for a summer internship, I knew that working for one of the many news outlets in Charlottesville offered a way to escape the gravitational pull of Rugby Road and find a new, non-student perspective. The city boasts a refreshingly active media ecosystem, with three papers — four, if you include The Cavalier Daily. I applied to Charlottesville Tomorrow, a hyperlocal nonprofit reporting on quality of life issues. A few emails and an interview later, I learned that I was selected for the job!

My experiences at Charlottesville Tomorrow taught me to think about the city in an entirely new way: Not only did my reporting improve, but I developed a deeper understanding of Charlottesville, its history and the future it hopes to achieve.

As soon as I started at Charlottesville Tomorrow in June 2019, I was thrown into the midst of primary season, with several local elections occurring on my second day on the job. My co-intern, Norah Mulinda, and I spent Election Day driving to different polling places to interview voters, and I ended the day collaborating with Norah and another full-time reporter on election stories.

The following weeks were largely spent attending, live-tweeting and reporting on government meetings and community events, like this City Planning Commission meeting and this event for women working in technology fields. At the end of every week, I would head to the WTJU office to chat on air with the station’s podcasters about my stories.

When I wasn’t in the field or at WTJU, I’d spend time in the CitySpace office, often bothering the full-time reporters for advice or just joking around. My internship offered me opportunities to collaborate with the seasoned reporters in the newsroom — experiences that improved my reporting and writing significantly. For example, Charlotte Woods, CTom’s climate and government reporter, and I collaborated on a piece about survivor compensation two years after the car attack on August 12, 2017 that killed Heather Heyer and injured 35 others.

I also concentrated on an individual summer-long project, which you can find here. I investigated discrimination on housing choice vouchers — a nationwide problem to which Charlottesville is no exception. I was able to interview local nonprofit leaders and people experiencing housing difficulties. My favorite part of journalism is talking with people about their passions, so I relished the conversations with nonprofit leaders who have dedicated their lives to equity issues, like housing.

I didn’t know much about housing vouchers before this assignment, or about the problems that voucher holders experienced. Affordable housing is a hot button issue in Charlottesville, so I’m glad I got to focus on a small but critical aspect of that topic.

These reporting experiences left me with both a portfolio of great clips and a more cohesive understanding of how Charlottesville “works.” When the summer drew to a close, I left the office feeling like a capable and confident reporter — not just a nosy college kid. The connections I made at Charlottesville Tomorrow will far outlast the ten weeks I spent in CitySpace, and the confidence and skills I gained will remain with me throughout my reporting career.