The National Press Club Journalism Institute is spotlighting the next generation of journalists, students who graduated from college or Master’s programs this spring into a challenging job market. We hope they’ll meet future bosses and colleagues here, who will reach out and support them in building journalism’s future together.
Name: Vandana Ravikumar
School: Arizona State University
Location: Tempe, AZ
Student media: The State Press
Internship: USA Today
What have you learned from your involvement with student media on your campus?
Ravikumar: My involvement with student media on ASU’s campus taught me that working in a student newsroom is about so much more than just developing my own skills — it’s also about providing a valuable and critical service to other students on our campus. My colleagues at The State Press and I have been told over and over again by students, parents, and other members of ASU’s community that our reporting means a lot to them, whether that means covering tuition increases and actions by university officials or telling the stories of students who come from all walks of life. I also think that student media not only made me a better journalist, but a more informed and engaged member of my campus community as well — I learned that you can’t really be a good journalist without also understanding who you’re trying to serve and why.
What have you learned from your internship experience(s)?
Ravikumar: My internship experience has taught me how to be a nimble reporter and an effective team player. I spent the summer after my junior year as a breaking news intern for USA Today in Los Angeles, California, where I covered breaking national news and wrote the occasional enterprise story. One of the stories I helped cover was that of the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California. I had covered breaking news before, but I think that particular story taught me the value of going the extra mile as a reporter and communicating with reporters in other newsrooms to serve audiences all over the country.
What’s been your best moment in journalism?
Ravikumar: It’s hard to think of just one moment, but I think some of my most memorable experiences have been at the United States Supreme Court. I had the privilege of covering multiple Supreme Court cases and oral arguments, including the oral arguments for DACA that took place last fall. I also covered Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court and the protests that occurred against it. I thought it was really interesting to be at the heart of some of the nation’s biggest news stories about law and justice, and it was always a really thought-provoking experience.
What’s the wackiest story you’ve worked on?
Ravikumar: I had a lot of fun writing this story. I noticed that this Facebook event to “raid” Area 51 was getting a lot of attention, and I asked my editor at USA Today if I could write a quick story about it. As I started writing it, I realized that my perspective as someone who grew up in Nevada helped me add in extra details that others might have missed — for example, this story noted that the Area 51 Travel Center about 90 miles outside of Las Vegas isn’t just a combination diner and convenience store, but a brothel as well. It was such a weird and funny story, and I’m glad I got to write it.
What do you want to accomplish in your journalism career?
Ravikumar: I really aspire to be a voice that audiences trust, and one that lifts up the voices of people and communities whose stories aren’t told very often. The journalists that I admire the most are typically ones who know that their work isn’t about them — it’s about the people they write about, the issues they face, and the bigger world that they live in.
If you could meet any journalist and ask for her/his advice, who would it be and why?
Ravikumar: I would love to meet Ronan Farrow. I think his reporting on sexual abuse has been a major public service, and I really admire his ability to rigorously and critically report on such a complex topic. I would ask him about what keeps him motivated when things get difficult and how he stays focused when working on stories that are of great magnitude.
What do you want potential employers to know about you?
Ravikumar: I think it’s just as important to be humble and empathetic as it is to be ambitious and hardworking. I think I’m a pretty fast learner and a hard worker, but I also know that I have a lot of room to grow from the lessons taught by others around me, and that kindness and understanding can go a very long way.
When you aren’t practicing journalism, how do you spend your time?
Ravikumar: I really love to read and write — I spend a lot of my downtime on creative or narrative writing. I also love listening to and playing music. Most of all, though, I really love sharing these hobbies with my friends and seeing what they’re working on in their free time.
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Tags: Class of 2020