COMMENTARY: Enterprise launches fund drive for annual summer journalism internship program

Abbey McDonald (left) and Joey Cappelletti spent the summer of 2021 as reporters in Vale as part of the Enterprise internship program. (PAT CALDWELL/The Enterprise)

We’re proud of the summer internship program we’ve established at the Malheur Enterprise and we hope you are too.

And once again, we’re planning to bring some of the most talented journalism students in the country to Vale.

They will get an unforgettable experience. They will learn about rural America. They will learn about journalism rooted in fairness and ethics.

They will learn the vital need to help rebuild the trust of you and others in the media, especially local media. A promising future for the county, Oregon and the country depends on it.

We do this each summer, and you and other readers benefit mightily.

These summer reporters help produce stories we’d otherwise never get to. They help us cover rodeos and protests and humanity in words and images that are meaningful to the community.

This isn’t a cheap undertaking. We pay the interns. At the Enterprise, we don’t believe in making students work for free.

That’s where you and the rest of the community come in.

The costs of this program come from three sources. First, outside organizations. The University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication helps cover the costs of two students assigned to Vale. The International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors subsidizes the program and helps recruit young journalists from around the U.S. They are one source.

At the Enterprise, we squirrel away money through the year to help cover these extra summer costs.

And then there is the Enterprise Internship Fund. This is where people like you and others can donate to support this program. This support, from people in Malheur County and around the state, is essential. Without it, we would run a much smaller program.

Why should you donate?

Well, this is a bit of economic development. These are paying jobs that otherwise wouldn’t exist in Malheur County.

Second, you help bring some of the best young talent to Vale. We’ve all heard the lament about the “brain drain” of young people moving away from Malheur County. Our interns become part of the community – they eat in our restaurants, buy coffee at local shops, and swim in the reservoirs.

Third, you help rebuild journalism. That’s no small job, and it’s important to us all. Without information you can trust, you don’t know if public officials are using tax money wisely – or frittering it away. You don’t know what government agencies are doing to make life better ­– or more cumbersome.

But let me get out of the way and let last year’s interns have the mic for a moment. Listen to a little of what they have to say about their time at the Enterprise:

“You would be hard pressed to find any internship in the country that is better than the Enterprise’s. If I could do it all over, and I’d been offered an internship at The Oregonian, The Seattle Times, or The New York Times for this summer, I would still choose the Enterprise. For a young journalist trying to figure things out, this internship was an invaluable experience that I truly don’t think you could get anywhere else.” – Joey Cappelletti

“If you had any doubts about the power of local journalism or working at a small paper, throw them all away – working at the Enterprise is about as real as you can get when it comes to reporting on the real world and as close as you can get to working in all areas of the newsroom.” – Angelina Katsanis

“It also showed me how important local journalism can be in holding community leaders responsible in smaller communities. Local journalism in a small community may not be the most exciting or glamorous job at times, but without it many communities would have no voice to represent them, and they would ultimately suffer and be taken advantage of by those in power and positions of influence. It felt good to be a part of that accountability.” – Austin Johnson

The journalists have moved through our newsroom on to bigger jobs. Austin is a photojournalist now at the daily newspaper in Lewiston, Idaho. Another intern reports on business for the Daily Astorian in Astoria and one recently joined the news staff of the Bend Bulletin. Others are working for newsrooms in Alabama, Texas and beyond.

To afford this program, we aim to raise $15,000 by April 1 for the Enterprise Internship Fund. 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.

I thank you for considering how to help educate the next generation of journalists and provide them a true Malheur County experience.

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