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Local News Supplement

Gift to Create Internship Program Connecting Merrill College, Maryland Media Outlets

By Liam Farrell

Student journalists interview source on porch

University of Maryland journalists interview a Baltimore resident about problems with heat in the city. A new gift to the Philip Merrill College of Journalism will create a local news collaborative and paid internship program to give students valuable experience and bolster reporting resources in Maryland.

Photo by Amina Lampkin/University of Maryland

Although the closest that Andy or Julie Klingenstein ’80 ever got to journalism was his time as sports editor for his high school newspaper, they have more recently watched the closures and shrinking of local media organizations with alarm.

Beset by plummeting readership and advertising revenue, nearly a quarter of all newspapers in the United States have shuttered since 2005, according to a recent study—including several that covered areas near the Washington, D.C., couple.

“School board meetings don’t get covered, city council and county commissioner meetings don’t get covered,” Julie said. “With that reporting gone, we lose accountability.”

So Andy, who is chairman and CEO of Klingenstein Philanthropies, and Julie, founding board chair of the nonprofit Literacy Lab and a former University of Maryland College Park Foundation trustee, made a significant new gift to UMD’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. It will create a local news collaborative and paid internship program that will give students valuable experience and simultaneously bolster reporting resources in Maryland.

“Many people can’t afford to do an internship if they don’t get paid something,” Julie said. “That helps level the playing field.”

The collaborative, which is expected to begin this fall, will team Merrill students with news media organizations of all types throughout the state and provide stipends starting next summer for students to intern at local news outlets. It will be led by Jerry Zremski, the Washington bureau chief for The Buffalo News and former president of the National Press Club. He won the 2017 Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi Award for a series tracing refugees from Asia to their new homeland, as well as the Washington Press Club Foundation’s 2018 David Lynch Memorial Award for Excellence in Congressional Reporting, and the National Press Club’s 2019 award for Washington regional reporting.

Zremski, who has taught at Merrill in two stints that total a decade, will join the faculty full-time. He said a smaller local news industry has made it much harder for students to succeed in classes that require published work.

“They have fewer outlets to go to,” he said.

But besides getting students needed professional experience, the collaborative will also be an opportunity to bring outlets together and share reporting resources. While journalism is known for its competition, Zremski said the challenges of small staffs mean outlets from different parts of Maryland can dig together into how statewide issues affect their local communities.

“We will provide resources to local news outlets that were not there before,” he said. “You can’t do everything on your own.”

Lucy Dalglish, Merrill College dean, said student reporting and writing will supplement, not replace, local newsrooms; she hopes it will also demonstrate how to build a sustainable pipeline of new journalists interested in grassroots work.

“We hope that this will be a model for a way a journalism school can prepare young journalists and get enthused about local journalism,” she said. “You are covering your community. It’s a way to feel a part of a place.”

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