This summer is proving to be an exciting, albeit busy, one for Journalism undergraduate student Tyler Blint-Welsh. He recently completed a two-week fellowship with The New York Times‘ Student Journalism Institute, where he was able to create and publish his own stories on social issues in New York. Tyler was one of 26 students out of a pool of over 3,000 selected for the prestigious program, focused on fostering diversity in the journalism and media industries. Now, this week, Tyler will travel to Los Angeles, where he’ll be beginning a two-month internship in the Sports Department of the Los Angeles Times. To make this opportunity even more exciting, Tyler will be the first student from Northeastern to intern for the LA Times! We recently reached out to Tyler to learn more about his experiences in New York, and what he’s looking forward to beginning his work in LA. Check out the Q+A below!
You just got back from The New York Times Student Journalism Institute in New York – tell us a little bit about the program and its mission.
The Institute is a two-week fellowship hosted at The New York Times with the goal of increasing diversity in the media industry, which has historically been very white-male dominant. Over the course of the two weeks, we work with New York Times staff writers, photographers and editors on our own original stories and put them together in a publication that’s published both in print and online.
Your articles on the Institute’s website are about fighting gentrification in Harlem and how New York’s Yellow Taxi services are impacted by ride-sharing services – why did you choose these topics?
A lot of my journalism experience has come in sportswriting, mostly for the Boston Globe. For The Institute, I kind of just wanted to move away from that and challenge myself to write about something entirely different. I’ve always been drawn towards the stories of people who don’t necessarily have a platform to get their own voice out there, so this was my chance.
Growing up in Brooklyn, I’ve seen the impacts gentrification has on communities first hand, so I wanted to use that perspective to tell the story of gentrification from an angle most people probably hadn’t considered. When you think of gentrification, you don’t think of business owners trying to preserve the unique culture of a neighborhood like Harlem; you usually think of them trying to exploit it. So my goal was to hopefully get people to think about the issue a little differently.
For my taxi story, I had realized that almost none of the stories about the decline of yellow cabs told the story from the perspective of individual cab drivers, so I wanted to get that point of view out there. Almost every taxi driver in New York City is an immigrant, and I think that’s a big reason their struggles have kind of existed outside of the view of the mainstream. The things I tried to bring up in my story are things I know people don’t think about, so I just wanted to help add some new information to the conversation around the topic.
What was the process like for you to gather information and conduct research for your articles? Did you find anything particularly interesting or surprising?
Honestly, most of journalism is calling people you find on the internet and hoping they want to speak to you. The most surprising thing I found was how open people are willing to be once they realize you’re genuinely curious about what they have to say. The taxi driver I interviewed invited me into his home, introduced me to his entire family, fed me and brought me tea just because I showed interest in his perspective on life. The research process for articles is pretty cool because you always get to interact with people and experience new things, and I think it just really helps inform how I see the world around me.
How would you describe your experience at the New York Times as a whole?
It was surreal. The New York Times is something I grew up reading, so waking up every day for two weeks and being able to walk right in through the front door felt like a dream. We had daily seminars with some of the most talented journalists in the world. We also got to meet a bunch of their executives and top editors, and I even got to hold one of their Emmy Awards. It’s something that is going to stick with me forever.
You’ll soon be starting another internship at the LA Times – can you tell us about what sort of work you’re expecting to be doing there?
At the Los Angeles Times I’m going to be working in the sports department, but I’m looking to also pitch my own original stories to other sections as well.
How do you think your past and future endeavors are going to help you for the remainder of your time at Northeastern? For your journalism career as a whole?
My experiences so far really set me up to succeed when I get back to campus. Being able to use, in the classroom, what I’ve learned at some of the most important news organizations in the country is such an advantage. And moving forward, having those connections to fall back on hopefully sets me up well for my journalism career after school.
How does it feel to be the first Northeastern student to work for the LA Times? What do you hope this experience will provide for you personally and professionally?
Knowing how many talented writers have come through Northeastern, I just feel pretty lucky more than anything. I’m just really looking forward to being able to explore Los Angeles while I’m there, and tell some interesting stories that people enjoy reading.
All images provided by Tyler taken by the student photographers of the Summer Institute.