An internship with Michael D’Antonio

  • May 1, 2020

By Maya Brown 

I remember primarily hearing the announcement of a possible internship with Michael D’Antonio, an American author, journalist and CNN commentator, in my JRN 301 class during the Fall 2019 semester. My professor, Barbara Selvin, the director of internships and careers at the School of Journalism, said to let her know if we were interested in investigative journalism and politics and wanted to learn more about long-form journalism. At first, although the investigative aspect and the fact that D’Antonio was a Trump biographer spoke to me, the long-form journalism aspect didn’t. I took some time to think about expressing interest, and I remembered that you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.

After expressing interest to Professor Selvin, I scheduled a short interview with D’Antonio over the phone. He explained to me details about the internship and learned more about my passion for politics. That conversation convinced me that the internship would be a great chance to observe and contribute to an investigative reporting project.

The work began around the first week of December. Four other interns and I would meet up with D’Antonio every two weeks. The best part about the internship was that it truly never felt like I was doing stressful work. When you’re passionate about something — journalism and politics — the work you are doing doesn’t feel like a strain. The work I completed during the internship was mainly about President Donald Trump’s scandal with Ukraine and the impeachment trial, which was exciting, current news to cover and research. 

My favorite assignments were when I gathered information on the relationship between Congressman David Cicilline and Congressman Devin Nunes, the relationship and competition between the House managers, the relationship between Congressman Devin Nunes and American businessman Lev Parnas, and Trump’s words and actions throughout the Senate’s impeachment trial. Regarding Trump’s words and actions, I had to review all of his tweets and write up analyses on each day of the Senate trial. This assignment made up a total of eight pages, and I learned a lot about how politicians work. Mainly, I learned a lot about President Trump and the way his mind works, as I had to read multiple tweets on top of tweets on his thoughts regarding the Senate trial.

The internship work consisted of working with writers and researchers on a complex and ongoing long-form report. I had the opportunity to review and analyze alleged corruption and criminality in the national government. Tasks included intensively reviewing lengthy documents, transcripts and affidavits to identify key figures and events. Additionally, most of my findings were cross-referenced and analyzed to confirm timelines and verify claims, which showed me how thorough investigative journalism is. I learned to confirm everything. 

What I wish I would have known from the start is probably more about the various political leaders. In the meetings with D’Antonio, he wanted to know what we had learned from research and what our opinions were. I learned that whenever you take in information, it is also important to have your own analysis or opinion formed. Otherwise, it just goes right into your head and right out. Most important, I learned how to apply critical thinking to journalism. 

If you are considering an internship like this, I would say do it. I believe that anything that is even remotely related to what your passions or career goals are will only bring you closer to your dream. At the end of the day, anything is possible, as long as you have enough nerve.