By Margaux Nersesian, Strategic Communication major, Class of 2021
Rising senior Journalism major Olivia Wales reflects positively on her experience in the Instagram Local News Fellowship this summer, a collaboration between the Facebook Journalism Project and the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The mission of the Instagram Local News Fellowship is to support local newsrooms in their effort to increase social media presence and engagement, especially for younger audiences. Wales is working with The Birmingham News in Birmingham, Alabama, as an Instagram editor creating effective Instagram strategies and content for the newspaper’s accounts, @aldotcomnews and @reckonalabama. After the first two weeks, Wales says she is impressed with the opportunities for professional experience this fellowship provides. “I have loved the program! I have enjoyed being part of the newsroom and seeing how a newsroom works day-to-day…and seeing how reporters work together to find sources for stories, bouncing ideas off one another and supporting each other’s work. I have been learning that communication, and over-communication, is essential.”
Wales is working closely with her mentor, Rebecca Walker Benjamin, senior managing producer for Reckon and AL.com. Together, they have been working to rebrand Reckon’s Instagram page. Benjamin has already provided Wales with valuable advice on the most effective communication techniques and Wales has used her Instagram skills to help the Birmingham News. Wales explains, “In my first week, I created an audit of both accounts. I analyzed data to see what types of content performed well and underperformed in the past. From there, I created a content strategy plan for this summer combining the most effective content types with some of my new ideas.”
Wales discovered the program through TCU Journalism professor and TCU360 advisor Jean Brown, who advised her through both the application and interview process. Brown believed this program would match well with Wales’ experience and goals. When Brown introduced the idea to her, she was immediately interested as it was “…the intersection of so many of my interests: local news, social media and strategy development.” Wales has worked for TCU360 as a reporter and Audience Engagement Editor where she helped run the TCU360 Instagram account, covering TCU football and basketball games. Wales says her experience working for TCU360 has been invaluable in preparing her for this internship.
The Instagram Local News Fellowship has been adapted as a remote internship this summer due to COVID-19 restrictions. While disappointed that she is not able to spend time in the physical newsroom, Wales says there are many benefits of the virtual experience. “I have been able to communicate and work with journalists who are located across the state of Alabama, whom I would not have met in the Birmingham newsroom and I have learned the value of consistent communication. Social media lends itself well to a virtual internship, because all of our work is done online and through different social media platforms.”
The first two weeks have been a wonderful experience for Wales, who hopes that by the end of the 10-week fellowship program, “I will come out of this experience a better journalist, visual storyteller and leader.”