COMMENTARY: Help bring journalism interns to Malheur County to learn skills, integrity

Editor Les Zaitz meets with reporters and photojournalists, including summer interns, in 2020. The Malheur Enterprise intends to host another round of interns for summer 2021. (Bob Quick photo)

Once again, the Malheur Enterprise is opening its newsroom this summer to young journalists to learn the profession. You can help bring them here.

This will be our fifth year of providing paid internships in Vale, and these slots have become coveted.

Invariably, interns find the summer in Malheur County to be a fast-paced experience. They make friendships. They learn about rural living.

And they learn what it means to perform journalism without fear or favor, with a stringent adherence to high ethical standards.

They bring with them a curiosity that helps us produce stories we might not otherwise produce. Last summer, we had two multi-media journalists on the crew. That means we had journalists who focused on the visual side of telling Malheur County’s stories – using both photos and videos.

What do these young journalists get out of the experience? Here are some remarks from “after action reports” I got from the intern crew of 2020:

My advice – do whatever you can to come to the Enterprise. This internship has been so important for my growth as a person and journalist, and I am so grateful for everything I’ve learned during my time at the Enterprise. – Bailey L.

Through seeing and being part of the impact the Enterprise’s stories have had in the community, I realized that, especially with only a couple of newspapers in the county, many of the stories we report on may not otherwise get told. The feedback we receive from readers telling us they appreciate our work was a reminder of how people in the community rely on the Enterprise, as well as the responsibility I have in this role. -Ardeshir T.

Without the Malheur Enterprise, this county wouldn’t have a robust local news outlet. At all. I have had experience at other rural papers that had leadership who wouldn’t challenge power in their regions, but that doesn’t do the community any good. The Enterprise does its job, and it does it well. – Rachel P.

This program combines work experience, ethics training, and community service into a package that is invaluable and allows participants to spread what they’ve learned elsewhere. – Kezia S.

Through their weeks with us, such journalists get advanced training in the skills needed to excel – how to conduct good interviews, what public records to seek from government agencies and more.

But underpinning it all is one prime goal: to regain the trust of the American people in the press.

At the moment, there is no greater duty for us at the Enterprise, in newsrooms across Oregon and among journalists across the country. None of the work we do matters if people don’t believe what we report.

That’s why I put so much personal effort into these interns. They get careful attention from me throughout their 10 weeks. They are treated as professionals, not as students.

We have already selected one outstanding candidate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Applications have come in from all over the country – and from prestigious colleges and universities.

To afford this program, we ask each year for contributions to the Enterprise Internship Fund. We’re aiming to raise $10,000 by April 1.

To help these young journalists, you can send a tax-deductible donation to the Oregon Newspapers Foundation with “Enterprise Intern Fund” on the notation line or in a cover note. Mail it to Oregon Newspapers Foundation, 400 2nd Street Suite 100 Lake Oswego, OR 97034.

If you’re not concerned about a tax deduction, you can contribute to the fund directly (Malheur Enterprise, PO Box 310 Vale Oregon 97918). Or you can go online and contribute immediately: https://www.malheurenterprise.com/donate.

Over years, we have had generous and increasing support for this fund from the people of Malheur County and supporters from around Oregon. I hope you’ll join in this year for such opportunities are increasingly rare for college students to learn in this way. If you want better journalism for the country, you can help make that change right here in Malheur County and with the journalists of the future.

Les Zaitz is editor and publisher of the Enterprise, reachable by email at [email protected].