How My Muskie Internship Helped Revive My Hope in Journalism

The Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program is now accepting applications for its 2020 class. Visit to learn more and apply.

Fake news and disinformation are the direct results of media outlets racing to be the first to report the news.

At the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (aka Wisconsin Watch) where I interned as a media fellow this summer—quality over quantity is the only answer.

My internship as a participant of the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program gave me insight into possible solutions to some of the industry’s biggest challenges.

The Wisconsin Watch team during the summer of 2019. I’m pictured second from left in the front row.

Becoming A Professional In A Dying… or Even Fake… Industry

I began my journalism career in 2004 at a local newspaper where I wrote a column about school news. Two years later, I was contributing as a freelancer to the leading Russian business newspaper “Kommersant.” In the years since, I have worked for multiple outlets.

Thanks to the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, I was able to gain experience that I didn’t have even after years of working for media outlets in Russia.

I have been in the profession long enough to have personally witnessed some of the journalism industry’s biggest changes. Media went online, many print outlets closed, and editorial rooms shrank. At least in Russia, the next casualty was press freedom.

Amid these changes, of course, the fake news also became a hot topic.

Thanks to the Muskie program, I was able to fight fake news with Wisconsin Watch. The Journalism in the Era of Disinformation Fellowship (JED Fellowship) is another Cultural Vistas program designed to help tackle the global trend of fake news. Above, the 2018 JED Fellows visit the The New York Times in New York City.

Though not yet at the point of explicit media censorship, I could see a similar trend developing in the U.S. With every year, the future of journalism seemed to be getting darker everywhere.

Wisconsin Watch To the Rescue

My Muskie internship at Wisconsin Watch helped revive my hope in journalism.

I know now that it’s not only national media organizations that can survive in today’s media climate. Even small and local outlets can thrive if they make the very tough decisions that need to be made while also managing to maintain trust with their readers.

Small teams of dedicated journalists like these have the power to thrive in today’s media climate.

One of the ways in which the Center has done this is by focusing on quality over quantity and by adhering to the highest professional standards. Behind every story are several months of reporting and hours of fact-checking. Every fact in every story is issued a number and is verified through interviews, documents, or data. It’s no wonder that the Center is part of The Trust Project network, a consortium of news organizations that develops transparency standards to battle fake news.

Wisconsin Watch is a nonprofit news organization, meaning that it doesn’t take money from advertisers and instead depends solely on grants and donations. The Center is the first nonprofit organization at which I have ever worked.

Though many quality outlets receive most of their revenues from subscriptions, the nonprofit model allows the center to focus on its mission of “increasing the quality and quantity of investigative reporting in Wisconsin, while training current and future investigative journalists.”

Working for an organization with that kind of approach made me confident that the real news could win.

Contributing to the Fight Against Fake News

In recent years the center has investigated the vulnerabilities in the electoral system, environmental issues, human labor trafficking in the state, prison overcrowding and flawed forensics. The stories expose not only the wrongdoings but also explore the solutions.

During my internship, I created visuals to tell the stories using different media: photography, video, audio, and infographics. I also worked on the series of video interviews with reporters “Behind the Story.” The series is the center’s outreach to the readers to explain how the reporting is done, what expertise the center has, and why the readers can trust its journalists.

During my internship at Wisconsin Watch, I focused on creating visuals to tell stories using a variety of media.

Explaining how journalism is made is an essential step in winning the reader’s trust back. Journalists need to be as transparent as they demand others (businesses and politicians) to be. The readers don’t blame journalists for fake news rise but wait from them that they will fix it, and this summer, I contributed to fixing the problem.


Apply Now for the 2020 Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program

Alisa Ivanitskaya
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Alisa Ivanitskaya

Alisa is a Fulbright scholar and Edmund S. Muskie Internship participant from Russia who is currently pursuing her master’s degree in multimedia and science journalism at the University of Arizona. She has a particular interest in documentary filmmaking and podcasting, and her professional background in journalism spans across Russia, Germany, and now—the U.S. She is fluent in Russian, English, and German.

View all posts by Alisa Ivanitskaya

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