Stories from the 2023 Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellows
By Kayla Smernoff
This summer’s Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellows covered critical local stories in their communities as they flexed their reporting skills at PBS stations around the country— Kate Nakamura at PBS Hawai’i, Tyler Pullum at Houston Public Media, Liam Wady at YouthBeat, and Alexa D’Amato and Johann Rodriguez at GBH.
As a Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow this summer, Kate Nakamura worked with Brent Keane, Director of Learning Initiatives and other producers at PBS Hawai’i, and reported on period poverty, a local issue that means a lot to her. Watch Nakamura’s final video here:
Over the course of her reporting, Nakamura met with students who’ve had experience with period poverty and community leaders working on solutions, and learned through these interviews what needs to be done to “keep the conversation going and the change flowing.” Reflecting on her experience, Nakamura shared that she learned a lot about the importance of story structure, student voice, and “what it means to be a storyteller in this day and age.”
Tyler Pullum reported on affirmative action this summer as a Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow at Houston Public Media, working closely with Mark Armes, Director of Special Projects. His report explored the Supreme Court’s ruling to eliminate affirmative action during the college admissions process, and as part of his reporting, Pullum interviewed Black educators and students about its impact. Watch the final video here:
“I learned how to set deadlines for myself, and really stick to those,” said Pullum, reflecting on his experience, “and I learned how to get over yourself a little bit. At first, I was so nervous and anxious to record people, but as I did more interviews I realized that I can do this on my own.”
The summer fellowship created a space for Pullum to share a story that was important to him, and he encourages future fellows and journalists to do the same: “Tell a story that you feel connected to and passionate about.”
During his time as a Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow, Liam Wady worked with Jake Schoneker, Executive Director, and Sagesse Graham, Education Director at Youth Beat, a media and mentorship program for Bay Area youth. Wady reported a story about the “No Coal in Oakland” campaign underway in West Oakland against the creation of a coal terminal. Watch the final video here:
Over the course of his reporting interviewing the many “inspiring people who were fighting against this issue,” Wady said he felt this project was his chance to highlight an important issue in Oakland that isn’t talked about enough. “Even when I’m talking with my friends they don’t know this is going on,” he said, “And it’s the job of journalists to bring that microphone out to a community that isn’t usually heard.”
Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellow Alexa D’Amato worked with Annie Shreffler, Audience Impact Producer, and other story producers at GBH, in Boston. She reported on Spark Boston, an initiative to involve young adults in their city’s civic life. Over the course of the summer, she developed questions and shot lists with a GBH producer, conducted an interview at Boston City Hall, and filmed broll around the city.
D’Amato channeled the legacy of the fellowship’s namesake by creating space in a field that she is underrepresented in. “This internship was an incredible opportunity as a female journalist of color because the journalism field is a statistically predominantly white field and a predominantly male field,” said D’Amato. She said the Gwen Ifill fellowship provided “a space to be myself and to increase representation in a newsroom.” The experience also highlighted a life lesson D’Amato will take into her future work: “how to reach out to others for help.”
Over the summer, Johann Rodriguez also completed his Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellowship with Annie Shreffler, Audience Impact Producer at GBH, with support from other story producers. His story explores themes of identity, culture, and connection in musician Johnathan Suazo’s album, Ricano. Watch the full video here:
“I was able to help produce a story that I was proud of, and one that highlighted not only my culture but one that many people can empathize with,” said Rodriguez. As a fellow, Rodriguez gained practical experience as a journalist. He said that he “learned what it was like to work in a professional news environment,” including “a lot of the ups and downs that come with it.”