Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Emily Mentzer
March 25, 2014
MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University has no journalism program, but that hasn’t stopped it from producing a young journalist worthy of receiving a Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism paid internship.
“I feel like I’m growing more here without a program,” said senior Laura Knudson, winner of the internship and editor-in-chief of the Western Oregon Journal.
Still, there are perks to having a program dedicated to training journalists.
“It’s hard to recruit people to write. We try and improve our journalism skills, but it’s hard when no one’s teaching those skills,” Knudson said.
She and her colleagues have been forced into learning about newspaper design, writing, editing, production and research essentially on their own.
Knudson has been hooked on journalism since her junior year at Snohomish (Wash.) High School. She worked on the newspaper at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham before deciding to choose Western Oregon over Western Washington University.
Western Washington had an environmental journalism program, Knudson said, but she was offered a track and field scholarship at Western Oregon.
“I fell in love with the campus,” she said.
She thought she would major in psychology, but it didn’t take more than a year before she realized she wanted to get back into the newspaper business.
As managing editor last year, Knudson said she has struggled to build the paper’s reputation with students, improve design and content, and create consistency.
This summer, her efforts will be focused at the Gresham Outlook. Knudson said she doesn’t know what her coverage area will be, only that she’s been assured she will be busy.
“I’m ready to dedicate my entire summer,” she said.
Winning the internship was not easy, Knudson said. She decided to apply and was among 20 other students to receive an interview. Most of those students had email addresses at the University of Oregon. She was the only one attending a university without a journalism program.
“I knew it was selective,” she said. “My intention was just to get an interview.”
It was the most brutal interview she’d ever had.
“I walked out of there thinking there was no way,” Knudson said. “They’re serious about it. They’re responsible for finding someone who can go into these newspapers and do the job.”
Nine excruciating days after the interview, she got the call that she’d been accepted for the paid, 10-week internship. The internship pays $5,000.
“I was heading out the door for track practice,” she recalled. “When they told me, I had a little silent fit of screaming.”
Knudson said she is eager to get started in Gresham and learn the newspaper business hands-on. She hopes to bring back what she learns to make the WOU Journal even better.
She is the first WOU student to ever receive the internship.