2024 Knight Nonprofit News interns announced: Four Missouri School of Journalism students to spend summer at nonprofit news outlets

Madelyn Gonzales, Mikayla Higgins, Kailan Dixon, Kathambari Ramkumar

By Austin Fitzgerald

COLUMBIA, Mo. (Feb. 22, 2024) — Four students at the Missouri School of Journalism have been selected for 2024 Knight Nonprofit News summer internships, during which they will work in news product management and audience engagement at nonprofit newsrooms for 10 weeks.

The participating newsrooms in Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas are members of the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN), which counts 450 member newsrooms throughout the country.

“Our partnership with INN lets us place Mizzou interns in very entrepreneurial newsrooms where they can practice a variety of skills, including reporting, audience research, social media engagement and product strategy,” said Damon Kiesow, professor and Knight Chair in Journalism Innovation at the School of Journalism. “Not all of them will go on to roles in news management or business, but it enables them to see those skills in action and helps them be better reporters, editors or producers if not news product managers.”

Sara Shahriari, director of leadership and talent development at INN, emphasized that the internships are mutually beneficial for students and the newsrooms.

“Audience growth, community events and products like newsletters are key to news organizations’ sustainability and growth, and that’s why this partnership with Mizzou and its outstanding students is a great match for INN members,” Shahriari said. “The students build skills that will be valuable in any news organization, and INN members benefit from the support and ideas that these diverse emerging professionals bring to the work.”

For students, the internship provides a hands-on window into elements of journalism that, while not always as visible as a byline on an article, are vital for the success of news organizations in an era of rapid change and growth in the news product space. And given the pace of that change, it’s vital for students to go beyond theory by working on social media content, newsletters, analytics and other projects that give them a starring role in reaching audiences in new and important ways.

“The students who are participating in these internships are getting a great learning experience in part of the business of journalism, like product management and audience engagement, that many of them would not get otherwise,” said Ron Kelley, executive director of student development, diversity and inclusion at the School of Journalism.

Meet the interns

Kailan Dixon
Kailan Dixon

Kailan Dixon, a first-year graduate student studying strategic communication, will work with MLK50, a nonprofit news outlet in Memphis that focuses on interrogating injustice and inequality. There, she will assist with the outlet’s social media engagement.

“I am excited to build upon my resume and ultimately contribute to a meaningful body of work,” Dixon said. “MLK50 does a lot of great work in the Memphis community with Black and brown residents who otherwise would not get much attention on issues that impact them.”

This won’t be Dixon’s first opportunity to gain professional experience. Previously, she served at the Black Child Development Center of Greensboro — a nonprofit centered around helping underserved and underrepresented populations achieve academic success — and as a social media and public relations intern at Empower Onyx, which showcases Black women in athletics.

Madelyn Gonzales
Madelyn Gonzales

Madelyn Gonzales is a junior studying broadcast journalism. At MinnPost, a nonprofit newsroom focused on civic and cultural affairs in Minnesota, she will work in audience development while also shadowing reporters for a balanced newsroom experience.

“I’m excited about having the opportunity to learn new skills,” Gonzales said. “This is an area of journalism that I’ve always been interested in, and I’m excited to learn about what it entails.”

A production assistant at KOMU, Gonzales hopes to become a reporter but said she remains open to new opportunities that come her way.

Junior Mikayla Higgins will help the Texas Tribune engage audiences in politics and public policy coverage through newsletters, social media, videos and other content — an experience that is sure to suit her interest in studying social media and audience strategy.

Mikayla Higgins

“The opportunity to engage diverse audiences about important policies that can affect their everyday life is important to me,” said Higgins, who added that she is particularly interested in learning how such issues affect the state of Texas.

Higgins is a member of the audience team for Vox Magazine, the Missouri News Network’s digital and print magazine at the School of Journalism. Enrolled in the School’s accelerated master’s program, she hopes to ultimately pursue a career that revolves connecting people and stories.

Kathambari Ramkumar is a sophomore who is double majoring in journalism and political science. At the Kansas City Beacon, a local news outlet offering data-driven, solutions-oriented journalism, she will work to innovate within the outlet’s audience engagement strategies while also contributing to reporting and story production.

Kathambari Ramkumar
Kathambari Ramkumar

“I am extremely interested in learning what all news product management has to offer while working alongside such talented reporters,” Ramkumar said. “Audience engagement strategization has become integral in modern-day newsrooms, and I’m excited to see what all the Beacon, as a non-profit outlet, has to offer its community.”

Ramkumar is currently the news director at KCOU, a student radio station owned by the Missouri Students Association, and she has been involved with student newspaper The Maneater, the Asian American Journalist Association and the Society for Science, Health, and Environmental Journalists. She has also worked as an editorial and social media fellow with Under the Radar Music Magazine.

Updated: February 22, 2024

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