Watkins, Rojas join CN+R’s staff as summer interns

Posted 5/20/20

Caroline Watkins, a recent University of Missouri graduate, and Olivia Rojas, a rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, have begun work as summer interns in the newsroom of the News + Record.

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Watkins, Rojas join CN+R’s staff as summer interns

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Caroline Watkins, a recent University of Missouri graduate, and Olivia Rojas, a rising sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, have begun work as summer interns in the newsroom of the News + Record.

Watkins is one of six Missouri School of Journalism graduates chosen for the school’s Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Student Innovation Fellowship’s summer program. The McLean, Virginia, resident will join five other RJI interns helping news outlets look at new ways of reaching audiences, growing revenue and distributing their content during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We wanted to help the newsrooms and the students during this crisis,” says Kat Duncan, interim director of innovation at RJI. “At RJI, we are always looking for methods to help journalists and ensure a bright future for us all. I am sure these amazing students will help us get there.”

The Chatham News + Record joins outlets that include The Washington Post and the Knoxville News Sentinel in being awarded the prestigious internships.

Publisher Bill Horner III said Watkins will work to create new distribution channels for the News + Record’s content and share content in existing digital channels in better, more consistent ways — particularly with Instagram and a new platform for the newspaper, TikTok.

“The work we’re having Caroline do would not be as much of a focus without the fellowship,” Horner said. “With our small staff, we don’t have much bandwidth to focus on these platforms, as important as they are. Caroline will step in and immediately make a difference for us.”

Horner said Watkins, who has primarily a broadcast journalism background, will be given free rein to experiment with other platforms as well — including weekly audio news programs and potentially a video news show.

Watkins previously interned with CBS News in London and with CNN International in Atlanta.

“For us, it’s all about audience engagement and building audience and brand and eventually helping our business model,” Horner said. “I also think having someone with Caroline’s broadcast background and her other unique internship experiences will also help us look more critically at the ways we work and produce content for our print product.”

Through this fellowship, Watkins hopes to hone her audience engagement skills and learn more about effective social media storytelling techniques and engagement metrics. She is also looking forward to helping the newspaper create digital video content for its website and social media channels, as well as to cover COVID-19 stories on a local level after interning in two international newsrooms, she says.

“Particularly in a time like now, when the world is facing a pandemic, it’s more important than ever to keep readers informed through innovative storytelling,” Watkins said. “I’m incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work at The Chatham News + Record this summer. I am looking forward to working on audience engagement and experimenting with various social media storytelling tools. It is such a critical time for local news, and I’m looking forward to creating meaningful, innovative content for the community.”

After working in two international newsrooms within the past year, she said she was eager to get back to local news — and to “help keep this community informed during the COVID-19 crisis.”

“The Chatham News + Record is an innovative, forward-thinking paper, and I’m grateful to be a part of the team this summer,” she said.

Missouri’s Duncan said she picked the News + Record as a partner for the fellowship program because the newspaper’s proposal included “a passion for journalism and a drive to use social platforms in new ways to engage with readers and share content.”

“I think they are a great fit for Caroline because she will get to experiment with innovative initiatives to help the Chatham News + Record grow, while building upon her own skills,” Duncan said.

Other RJI fellows will work at Associated Press, the Columbia Missourian and Carolina Panorama in South Carolina. Each receives a $5,000 stipend from RJI’s Palmer Innovation Endowment and are required to work between 30 to 40 hours a week for 12 weeks through Aug. 7.

RJI plans to highlight the students’ work in its RJI’s Innovation in Focus web series. Students will share their work, interview journalism professionals and produce tips sheets to help other newsrooms interested in pursuing innovative projects. They’ll take part in weekly Zoom meetings with Duncan to talk about what they’re learning and write about the experience for RJI.

Rojas, 19, is a native of Redwood City, California, but moved to Sanford when she was just a few months old. She’s planning a major in journalism and a minor in conflict management at UNC.

She describes herself as a “proud Peruvian-Puerto Rican-American.”

“I value my culture as well as the different cultures of others,” Rojas said. “I’m a huge advocate for diversity and inclusion and I strive to be culturally competent in any environment.”

Rojas previously interned twice at Lenovo in Morrisville, where she wrote news stories for internal company publications and worked with Lenovo Cares—the company’s giving and volunteering program.

“I worked as a communications and community relations intern with Lenovo’s PC and Smart Devices group in the summer of 2017 and I worked as a junior communications specialist intern with Lenovo’s Data Center Group in the summer of 2018,” she said. “I’m very grateful for my experiences there. It showed me that I wanted to pursue a career in media.”

Rojas also has experience in reporting as a reporter for The Daily Tar Heel — UNC’s independent student-run news organization.

“I started writing for The Daily Tar Heel during the second semester of my first year at school. I was a reporter for the University Desk which covers any news related to the campus,” she said.

She said she was excited for the internship because she knows it will allow her to have real world experience through storytelling.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the Chatham community and being able to tell the stories for those who are not able to tell it themselves,” she said.






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