COLA Connections Newsletter: December 2015

Student Spotlight: Alyssa Jackson-- Interning with CNN

Fourth year Journalism and International & Global Studies double major Alyssa Jackson has put together quite an impressive resume during her time here at RIT. She is the Editor in Chief of Reporter Magazine, a member of Alpha Sigma Alpha sorority, a freelance writer for USA Today College, Messenger Post Media, and Rochester Women’s Magazine, as well as holds student assistant positions in both the COLA Office of Student Services and Hale-Andrews Student Life Center.  Despite having already completed her required co-op for Journalism, Alyssa applied for a prestigious and competitive internship with CNN.  After a series of interviews, she was offered a summer position working with CNN’s iReport group at their headquarters in Atlanta, GA. Inspired by her dedication and her hard-working spirit, we sat down with Alyssa to talk about her RIT experience, CNN, and what her craft means to her.

How did your internship at CNN come about?

I actually applied to CNN two years - no, three years in a row, actually. I applied my freshman and sophomore years and never heard back. I did it again toward the end of my third year thinking that I wasn’t going to hear anything again, but then I got an e-mail one day saying that they were interested in interviewing me. Over the process of two months I went through several interviews and background checks, and then finally they offered me the job.

Was the process leading up to getting the internship nerve-wracking?

So nerve-wracking. Every time I did an interview with CNN I wouldn’t hear back for at least a week, and I would just be thinking to myself, “Ok, that’s it, I didn’t get it,” but then they would want to schedule another one! It was a really long process, I was a ball of nerves the entire time.

What was your day-to-day experience like at CNN?

I really don’t know how to describe it. It was everything I would have hoped to eventually achieve. I got to do so many different things and the team that I worked for was so amazing and did a lot of really important work. Most days I felt like I was doing truly meaningful things and actually contributing to the reporting. My supervisors would ask me, “What do you want to take care of today? Social media? Do you want to try and write an article?” and I was able to pick and choose.

What does doing “meaningful” things entail to you?

I was reporting on things on a wider scale, which was really exciting. For example, one of the very first projects I worked on was reporting on transgender issues, which was an amazing experience because LGBTQIA+ rights are really important to me. Being able to share the stories of transgender people whose transitions may not have been as glamorous or widely reported on as someone like Caitlyn Jenner’s meant so much to me.

Do you want to continue to write about LGBTQIA+ rights after you graduate?

I certainly wouldn’t mind but I’d also really like to go into more international journalism. That could definitely be a component of it - LGBTQIA+ rights abroad are a really serious issue. I really want to report on what’s important, and what’s important to me.

What makes something “important” to you?

If it really significantly impacts someone or a group of people. That’s why I’m so interested in international news. There are things that happen abroad that impact tens of thousands of people and oftentimes we’ll never hear about it in the U.S.

How have you applied what you’ve learned at CNN to your studies at RIT?

I worked a lot with social media over the summer, as well as community generated content. I’m putting a lot of that into practice with Reporter and I’m already seeing some good results, which is exciting for me. I’d also like to employ some of the community-oriented skills I learned at CNN into my writing for Reporter.

Do you think that what your CNN experience is going to shape how you run Reporter?

Yes, I do. I think CNN made me more confident. Last year I was still really new as an Editor in Chief, so I felt unsure about what I was doing. After working at CNN my thought process is really, “I know I can make it. I must be good at what I do if CNN wanted to hire me.” Now that I have this real world experience I feel as if I can approach our advisory board and our writers with a lot more confidence and expertise. I’m not a completely lost student who’s still learning this stuff. I’m good.

What advice would you give to your fellow Journalism students?

Be confident. Don’t be afraid of rejection. Don’t not apply to something just because you think you’re going to be turned away. Just go for it, because you never know what’s going to happen.