Covering Coronavirus: Tips, best practices and programs

Introducing the Class of 2020: Elise Dean, with a cameo by Vox’s Sean Rameswaram

The National Press Club Journalism Institute is spotlighting the next generation of journalists, students graduating from college or Master’s programs this spring into a challenging job market, in hopes they’ll meet future bosses and colleagues here, who will reach out and support them in building journalism’s future together. 

Name: Elise Dean

School: American University

Location: Washington, D.C.

Podcaster: She+

Writer: The Wash

What have you learned from your involvement with student media on your campus?

Dean: During my time at American, I’ve had the opportunity to write and produce for multiple different campus media outlets. As a Producer for District Wire News, a graduate student news channel, I’ve learned the importance of teamwork and communication. The process of producing an entire newscast on deadline can be daunting, but the most important part is communicating with your reporters to ensure the reporting process is a well-oiled machine. I’m really proud of the coverage we’ve produced, especially while separated due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This same skill was equally as important when producing our award-winning podcast series, The Impeachment Inquiry of President Donald J. Trump. We work together to ensure everyone is on the same page.

What have you learned from your internship experience(s)?

Dean: This semester, I was a Talk Programming intern on the POTUS Channel for SiriusXM. Though the experience was unfortunately cut in half, I’ve learned many tangible skills that will prove invaluable. Most importantly, I’ve learned how to operate in a newsroom. Prior to grad school, I had very little newsroom experience, and found the concept of a newsroom slightly overwhelming. My internship with SiriusXM taught me how to work in a newsroom environment. Whether it was telling my manager that the COVID-19 press conference was delayed another 30 minutes or rushing to make sure we were capturing the audio from a live event, I grew to understand how a newsroom differs from a typical 9-5 desk job. It has a much faster pace…!

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What’s been your best moment in journalism?

Dean: Meeting my fellow grad school cohort. Before being admitted to American, pursuing journalism was an untouchable dream. I didn’t really know many fellow journalists, I didn’t know where to begin meeting journalists. I’ve met so many great friends through my program and we go through all of the same motions together. We come from all different walks of life, which has opened my mind in ways I never expected. I remember at the beginning of our program when a professor kept mentioning all of her colleagues that she’s still connected to from her grad program, and I know I will stay connected with many of the accomplished journalists I’ve met through my program at American.

What’s the wackiest story you’ve worked on? 

Dean: Not necessarily wacky… But I was on Christmas break in my hometown (Beaufort, SC) which is a historically conservative county. I drove by a crowd of mostly senior citizens with signs outside of Representative Joe Cunningham’s office. When I parked, I initially thought the crowd was protesting Cunningham’s decision to support the impeachment of President Trump, but it turns out it was the complete opposite. They were supporting the impeachment inquiry! In full transparency, I was completely surprised because this was not typical political behavior for the area. But it just goes to show the importance of recognizing your own bias and getting the full story. It was pouring rain and I was running around with a coat over my head to interview people. Unfortunately, my phone actually had water damage from being outside for so long… [but] I created a TV news package for the story

What do you want to accomplish in your journalism career?

Dean: I want to master full-cycle investigative podcasting (from tech production to scripting, the whole shebang!) I’ve had the opportunity to learn more about investigative journalism while at American University and would love to apply the investigative method to a podcast. More specifically, I run an episodic female empowerment podcast called She+ and would love to eventually produce a successful spinoff investigative podcast series focused on women. In short, one day I hope to be working and producing podcasts with a team about meaningful investigative work.

If you could meet any journalist and ask for her/his advice, who would it be and why?

Dean: This is a hard one because there are so many… But it would have to go to Sean Rameswaram of Today, Explained or Reema Khrais of This is Uncomfortable (podcasts). I’ve been listening to both since their inception and I would love to learn their process of making on-air hosting sound so effortless. It always seems like I’m sitting right next to them or jumping in on a really lively conversation. Listening to an episode always feels comforting, which can be really hard to do in audio when you can’t associate a face with the voice. Their voices are great. I also would love to know where they get their episode ideas… Everything they do screams creativity.

Sean Rameswaram responds: Thanks so much for listening, Elise. When we set out to make ‘Today, Explained,’ one goal outranked all the others: make a news show that felt human. What you hear is our dream fully realized. you laugh, you cry, you lean in, you skip back, you’re outraged. I hope listening to our show reminds you of your agency to do something about the most important issues in the world. 

With regard to how we decide what to cover, the team is deeply collaborative. We all pitch ideas and improve each other’s work throughout the production process. And as far as the voice of the show is concerned, I’ve been trying to find and perfect it for about a decade, so if you haven’t started yet you better get cracking! 

What do you want potential employers to know about you?

Dean: I really love to learn. I’m always open to learning about and trying new things. I am motivated by learning a new skill and using it to create something new. Through American, I’ve mastered some of the products in the Adobe Creative Suite, and I really enjoy being able to use those skills to create something from scratch. I’ll jump at the chance to learn new skills.

When you aren’t practicing journalism, how do you spend your time?

Dean: I love to read. I’m always looking for new book recommendations (I’m pretty active on Goodreads!) I also enjoy watching documentaries and docuseries (The Pharmacist and Icarus are must watches). Other than that, I’m probably petting a dog, listening to a podcast or eating dark chocolate.

If you’re a senior studying journalism, or know one, we’re accepting information here for students to feature in the future. If you’re a supporter, you can contribute here to scholarships for journalism students