2020 Grad Begins Reporting Position with Quad Cities Affiliate
Mikhayla Huges-Shaw, a 2020 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, has recently begun a position as a multimedia journalist for Local 4, WHBF & KLJB Fox News located in the Quad Cities. Hughes-Shaw served as a Peer Mentor for SJMC during the 2019-20 academic year.
Before starting her position at WHBF, Hughes-Shaw worked as an Investigative Reporting Fellow for News21 during the summer. Hughes-Shaw planned to move to Arizona in May for the fellowship but with the pandemic sweeping the country, it was moved online.
"At first it was definitely a challenge trying to figure out as a team how we could still make something out of the internship because News21 is known for their long-form documentary-style storytelling and actually flying around the country interviewing people,” said Hughes-Shaw. “I think usually they hit about 30 states every summer when they’re doing reports, but obviously we had to do it from our bedrooms. I have to say though, it was still pretty successful because with us doing things from Zoom, we didn’t have to fly anywhere. We could just send an email or make a call and we could talk to someone in Oregon; there was quite a bit of flexibility there.”
During her fellowship, Hughes-Shaw worked on two stories, the first focused on the juvenile system and how it differs in each state and the counties within them. She interviewed juvenile prosecutors and public defenders, talking to people in Oregon and Iowa.
"The other story I did was on racial disparities,” said Huges-Shaw. “I talked to quite a few leaders of nonprofits, people who write policy to limit the amount of racial disparity that is within the juvenile justice system.”
Despite the stress and adjustments to produce large-scale stories from home, Hughes-Shaw persevered and left the fellowship with a few takeaways.
"I definitely learned a lot about collaborating with the team because there was no way that we could do this unless we were all working together all on the same page,” said Hughes-Shaw.
She said that she learned how to be flexible, noting that TV reporters were still reporting from home, and taught her how to make things happen, even when everything isn’t going according to plan.
In March, Hughes-Shaw applied for the position that she now holds. She had a relationship with the news director from her time as Miss Iowa and had gone to the station for a conversation regarding the job before COVID hit.
Hughes-Shaw began applying for multiple jobs hoping to land anything, much like many recent grads. A month ago, the news director contacted her to say that the position was still open and they’d love to have her on the team.
For the last two weeks, Hughes-Shaw has been out in the field, writing stories and creating multimedia packages, all while adjusting to a full-time job in the middle of a pandemic.
"Your goal every day is to get a story on TV,” said Hughes-Shaw. “So far my job has consisted of interviewing, editing, and writing, all in one day, to get things on the air. I work with producers and photographers and other reporters, really every single day, it just depends on what’s going on. You never know what you’re going to walk into.”
Hughes-Shaw has written a multitude of stories, from a missing person to farming in Iowa. While reporters have their eyes and ears to the ground, Hughes-Shaw has an advantage: she’s working in her hometown. It’s something that she considers “extremely rewarding” as she gets the opportunity to tell her community's stories.
"It's an important thing for me to be in my hometown telling the stories that matter to my community,” said Hughes-Shaw. “I can really utilize the connections that I do have here to make sure that people feel validated and hopefully I can bring a different perspective with being from here instead of someone who’s coming in just for a job. It’s like, I don’t look at it as just a job, I look at it as an opportunity to really just help my community.”
As for seeing herself on TV, Hughes-Shaw says that “it still doesn’t feel real.”
With uncertainty surrounding the job market for upcoming graduates, Hughes-Shaw encourages students to reach out to their media idols, as many people are still working at home and utilizing digital communication streams more frequently.
"I think, especially in the midst of COVID, you have to just be willing to be flexible,” said Hughes-Shaw. “You may not land the thing that you wanted right away, but any experience that’s relevant to the news, if that’s what you want to do, just know that it will still be good experience just to get that experience. Even if it’s just an online news internship or you’re helping transcribe video for a media company, there are a lot of opportunities out there and sometimes you have to make the opportunities for yourself, just being creative and being persistent.”