The Indypendent has carved out a unique niche in the New York media landscape as a crusading, progressive newspaper that tells it like it is with careful reporting and incisive analysis. Throughout its 21-year history, the paper’s participatory ethos has also created a unique space where hundreds of aspiring young journalists have honed their skills and found a platform to spread their wings.
We’ve continued to do this despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Below are the stories of four recent Indy volunteers and interns. When you give to the Indy during our winter fund drive, you not only help us continue to publish in the new year but you are investing in the next generation of progressive journalists whose impact over time will extend far beyond this publication.
Hustling Across The City
by Zion DeCoteau
Working as an Indypendent Intern this past summer 2021 was a fascinating experience. I got to travel around New York City and cover events like protests to save Rockefeller and East River Parks, and meet interesting people such as Amadou Diallo’s mother. While some of my stories were assigned by editors, on other occasions I pitched story ideas that were accepted and later published. One of my favorites was covering the opening of an exhibit on the history of protest in Brooklyn. However, one freelance story was the highlight of my entire internship. On my way to my local gym, I saw several news vans gathered around the nearby elementary school. Upon speaking to a reporter from a local television station, I was informed that Mayor Bill de Blasio was on his way there for the opening of the city’s free summer school program to reacclimate children to in-person learning after a year of COVID-19-induced school closures. I stuck around and filed a story from the event and even took a photo with the Mayor himself! It was a great experience in “story hunting” and it reinforced for me the importance of persistence.
A big challenge for me was doing vox pops in which I was tasked with walking up to complete strangers and asking their opinions on important breaking news items such as this spring’s NYPD crackdown on young Washington Square Park revelers, Eric Adams victory in the mayoral primary, the defacing of a George Floyd statue and Andrew Cuomo’s resignation as governor. If you’re apprehensive in that situation, my advice is to just do it! If the person says no, move on and try someone else. Somebody is bound to have an opinion on the matter and it might surprise you. My Indy internship was a great exercise in overcoming my shyness about approaching and talking to strangers. Overall, I am more confident in my journalistic skills after having completed this internship. For that I am grateful.
So Many Worlds in One Place
by Leia Doran
In my five years of volunteering at The Indypendent, I’ve designed ads and layouts, illustrated numerous covers, written an article, produced short films, passed out issues at rallies and protests and worked through the night alongside other dedicated volunteers to get the paper to the printer just under the wire. At times it’s been a lot of work, but it‘s also been absolutely, without a doubt, worth it. Where else would I have gotten to explore so many different worlds in one place?
Last year, I was asked to write an article from my own perspective during the rash of hate crimes against Asian Americans around the country. I’m not a writer or a journalist by any professional metric, but the editors offered me guidance, trust and the freedom to say what I needed to during a deeply difficult time. It was an amazing thing — to have my first article printed on the same pages that have held the brilliant thoughts of accomplished journalists and leading progressive voices. Later, I made my first-ever appearance on a live radio show to discuss the article.
As my own illustrative style has evolved, so has my work with The Indy. The covers I’ve made (1/2/3/4/5/6) over the years make up a significant chunk of my portfolio, and looking through the stack of papers under my desk, I can track each issue’s contribution to my development as an editorial artist.
The Indy is so much more than a newspaper. It’s also a platform, an experience-builder and a priceless opportunity for those of us who may have the desire to participate meaningfully in progressive journalism but aren’t sure how to begin.
I hope that you’ll continue to support The Indy, so that it can continue its vital work of amplifying progressive voices, seasoned and new alike, for many years to come.
Commitment to Community
by Julia Thomas
The Indypendent has greatly contributed to my growth as a journalist by giving me ample opportunities to cover a wide variety of social movements and issues with the support of fellow Indy writers and editors. When I attended my first Indy editorial meeting in August 2019, I was struck by the warmth and engagement of everyone gathered around the table, as well as the range of political and cultural issues being discussed. That commitment to community and collectively providing thoughtful, alternative coverage of current events has continually shone through in all my experiences at The Indy. I’ve consistently received helpful, engaged mentorship from editors and have been encouraged to try writing in different styles and to closely follow stories as they evolve. I covered Dianne Morales’s mayoral campaign and its implosion, profiled an artist who illustrated the news every day of the Trump era, reported on the fight to save a beloved supermarket in Crown Heights from eviction by a sketchy real estate developer, and highlighted a Cuban doctors’ perspective on his country’s response to the pandemic. I’ve also had the chance to co-host the weekly Indypendent News Hour on WBAI 99.5 FM and to provide on-the-ground coverage of protests and local elections.
These opportunities have opened my eyes to new interests within media and organizing, introduced me to wonderful people and challenged me. The Indy is truly one-of-a-kind in the space that it offers for not just budding journalists, but anyone, to gain experience and write about issues they’re passionate about. I’m proud and deeply grateful to be an Indy contributor, and know that the newspaper has played a truly pivotal role in my trajectory as a journalist. When you give to The Indy, you are supporting young journalists like myself.
Finding One’s Calling
by Lila Livingston
I’m a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, currently studying Buddhism, interreligious engagement and movement practices. The Indypendent came across my register — literally — in November when I rang up a couple while working a member shift at the Park Slope Food Coop. As they filled up their backpacks and tote bags with groceries, I noticed the man was also carrying a stack of newspapers under his arms that he distributes around his neighborhood.
Before I could ask what paper they were carrying with them, they handed me a copy of The Indy’s most recent issue. Fresh off the press, the woman pointed me to Page 14 to read her latest article in the paper on the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Independent, progressive journalism, alive and well, in print, in front of me. How had I not heard of The Indypendent until now?
I took the copy home with me. I placed it next to my desk where I do my readings for school. Seminary is a place of integration between spiritual and academic worlds, and one of its long held purposes is helping students discern their calling.
Since finishing an undergraduate degree in 2018, I’ve worked as a high school teacher, admissions counselor, landscaper, cook, woodworker and all along have known that journalism is my calling. I’ve applied for numerous internships in journalism since graduating but have had little success manifesting my “calling” for entry level journalism internships which paradoxically require years (and years) of experience.
I had The Indy sitting next to me for a week or more like some sort of talisman of good luck finding my calling when, in between reading for school, I read up on the paper’s history and realized that it has been functioning as a launchpad for independent journalists since its inception.
I reached out to The Indy and received immediate follow up and subsequent opportunities to write stories, to help with editorial work and to steward a box of papers in my neighborhood. Through The Indypendent, I’m experiencing connections between the work of chaplaincy and journalism — two vocations committed to integrative practices of listening to and caring for the stories that matter in our world.
We are all interconnected in the work of free, independent journalism. The Indy relies on the support of readers like you to keep eyes and ears on the ground where everyday people are shaping our future and the stories that will eventually shape our memory of the past. Support The Indypendent today!
My First Year at The Indypendent
by Amba Guerguerian
Creating Space for Artists
by Frank Reynoso
Supporting The Indy Means Supporting Young Journalists Like Me
by Katya Schwenk
“I Had Zero Experience”
by Sarah Stuteville
The Indy Is the Ultimate Megaphone
by Olivia Riggio
Please support independent media today! Now celebrating its 22nd year publishing, The Indypendent is still standing but it’s not easy. Make a recurring or one-time donation today or subscribe to our monthly print edition and get every copy sent straight to your home.