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Press Pass: JPR Hosts Sixth Snowden Intern in Summer 2024

James Kelley, 2024 Snowden Intern
Marian Wyse
James Kelley, 2024 Snowden Intern

For the past five summers, Jefferson Public Radio has participated in the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. Based out of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, it places undergraduates in newsrooms around the state for a 10-week, fulltime internship. Participants are paid, and treated like a member of their host newsroom.

This summer JPR welcomes James Kelley, our sixth intern in the program. James joins JPR from Oregon State University where he was the city editor of OSU’s student-led publication, the Daily Barometer and where he hosted a radio show on KBVR FM. JPR News Director Erik Neumann spoke with James, who will be arriving in Ashland this June.

Erik Neumann: Tell me a little bit about your background.

 James Kelley: I grew up in Portland, Oregon and went to high school in Clackamas Oregon. I wasn't too involved in journalism in high school. Throughout high school, I was interested in writing. I took English classes very seriously and I ended up transferring to Portland Community College in Portland. While I was there I became interested in a degree in psychology. So, I started taking classes in psychology and started exploring philosophy too, and just doing lots of reading about what it's like to be a human in the world.

I applied to Oregon State in that winter that I was at Portland Community College because I wanted a big school and I wanted to stay close to home. I was really excited when I was accepted to Oregon State. I had a close friend who was actually a public policy student. Through my reading, I followed politics pretty closely in my early college years and in high school, and so, I was just really interested in government and how things work in the world. She was like, ‘Oh, you know, you would love this public policy major.’ It's kind of a combination of economics and political science and sociology. And those were all fields that I was sort of tangentially attracted to when I was studying psychology, so it was really appealing to me.

 Last year I wrote for Beavers Digest, which is our lifestyle magazine on campus. That was a really great experience building my portfolio. And then through Nicole and Brent, who are the organizers of the Charles Snowden program, came and talked to us at Orange Media Network, which is Oregon State University's, student media organization and plugged the Snowden program. I was like, this is going to be great if I get this. And I did. I went and interviewed and they offered me the job and I couldn't be happier about the placement.

EN: You've written for the Daily Barometer at OSU and you hosted a radio show on campus at KBVR. What do you like about journalism?

 JK: I love getting to exercise my policy chops. I guess, where I get to go to City Hall and shake hands with people who, you know, if it was anywhere outside of Corvallis or if I was in a different profession, I would be challenged to do. That's really exciting. It's a balance between getting so starstruck and also being like, this is this is my job, which is entertaining and fun for me.

EN: Are there any topics that you're especially interested in covering?

 JK: I'm doing this so that I can broaden the language that I have about different topics and different things that get covered in the news. I would be excited to report on certain political issues and in housing.

EN: What's a story that you've covered recently that you're especially proud of?

JK: I think it was in November, I did a story on affordable housing in Corvallis. And that was interesting. I was on a scheduled visit to City Hall, and I was meeting with the public information officer there. They ended up introducing me to the community development director, and they mentioned that there were 400-plus new affordable housing units that were being constructed

Being the excited, wide-eyed journalist that I was, I was really excited to report on that. And I was quickly humbled, because I realized that reporting on something like affordable housing is pretty nuanced. And so, in the initial version of the story that I wrote, I forgot to kind of include what affordable housing was, period. And who qualified. There were people in the comments that were like, ‘What is this? How does this apply? How do I know if I can live there?’ So, that was an interesting learning curve for me, but I loved it.

EN: It sounds like there was a record number of OSU students who were selected as Snowden interns this year. There isn't a journalism major at the school. I was just curious why there's so much enthusiasm for the program this year?

JK: One of my good friends was a Snowden intern last year. And she raved about the program and was excited for me to apply. Because there's not a [OSU journalism] major we have such an interesting group of people at the Barometer. We have people in STEM and the liberal arts, all over different areas of study who are interested in journalism, in sort of an extracurricular sort of way. And for other people it's, ‘this is what we do.’ For myself and for the other Snowden interns, there's just been a growing interest in journalism here at Oregon State. At the Barometer, we've tripled the number of writers that we have, we've tripled our circulation. We have this kind of upward momentum right now that's really exciting. And for a school that doesn't have a journalism major, I think we're heading in that direction.

EN: What do you hope to learn this summer at JPR?

JK: Broadcast reporting is something that's going to be new to me. I'm really excited to be able to learn more about Southern Oregon and Northern California; what it's like down there socially, politically, environmentally. And I'm really eager to build some of those skills as a journalist that help people to be able to report on topics effectively. I think JPR is going to be just a fabulous place for that.

EN: Long term, is there anything that you're hoping to do, either in journalism or a completely different field?

JK: I think I'll be a writer in some capacity. I'm not sure what that looks like, whether or not it's going to incorporate some of that public policy. Maybe I start exploring careers in public information, like working for local government or speech writing. That's kind of the great thing about public policy is you can go in all sorts of different directions. I think writing in some capacity, with some level of public interaction is probably going to happen in my future. And journalism right now is the most obvious case of that.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.