Q&A: Michael Indriolo, Reporting Fellow with The Land

The Land recently talked with Michael Indriolo, the first recipient of The Land’s Reporting Fellowship for Journalists of Color. Michael has been working with The Land since September and this check-in sheds some light on how the fellowship is going so far.

Tell us Michael, why journalism?

I first became interested in journalism after learning more about my own family’s history of immigrating to the United States from Lebanon. My family was forced to leave their homes at the onset of civil war in Lebanon back in the ‘70’s. And they certainly aren’t alone. The refrain of one of my favorite songs goes: “Violence is daily life.” For so many, it is. And for me, selfishly, journalism has been a way to make sense of that, to understand how violence impacts people. I want to humanize those impacted by violence and amplify the stories of those seeking peace and healing, both for themselves and for their communities.

I’m passionate about local news because we deserve both quality information and storytelling. I believe it’s the role of news to keep people informed about what’s going on around them, and also to share the powerful stories that shape our communities.

You’re a recent graduate. What has it been like launching a journalism career during a global pandemic?

It was quite easy because news was everywhere. Despite some initial road bumps developing a new set of best practices for safety, it felt incredibly empowering to report on stuff like the pandemic and protests against racism that were facing not only my communities but the whole world.

Describe a day in the life of Michael Indriolo’s journalism.

A day in my life tends to involve insightful conversations with incredible people. It’s humbling to meet so many people. I feel like I’m constantly having life-changing experiences and learning from those with wisdom so far beyond my own. It’s a blessing, really. Also, it’s a lot of time at my computer on Zoom calls, writing emails, all that good stuff.

What has been your career highlight so far?

The highlight of my career so far has been working with the family of Vincent Belmonte, a 19-year-old who was fatally shot by East Cleveland Police Officer Larry McDonald in January 2021. We have been working together to document their pursuit of justice for nearly a year now. They’re family to me. That’s why it’s the highlight of my career: the relationships I’ve built from this project.

Why The Land? You could be anywhere in the world, why Cleveland?

Cleveland is rad. I grew up outside the city always looking toward it with a sense of awe. I’m sure this means different things to different people, but I feel like a Northeast Ohioan through-and-through. I’ve been to other places, and I love traveling, but I feel that this is where I belong. 

The Land is pretty awesome, too. Y’all put up with me constantly trying to write way-too-long stories, and actually encourage me to do so. We get to really focus on filling niche gaps here rather than trying to cover all the breaking news in Cleveland. 

In an era of the 280 character tweet, why is in-depth local journalism important?

Telling stories concisely is a big part of journalism, but sometimes you need a couple of extra words to adequately capture the color of a story. Effective in-depth journalism, in my opinion, captures that color and blends it in with the hard-hitting investigative, data-driven reporting. I think it’s that kind of work that speaks to people. I’ve heard that quite a bit from people, at least.

What future for The Land keeps you going every day?

I think The Land could be a community good: a platform that both helps foster civic engagement and amplifies community voices and stories that other outlets don’t quite have the bandwidth to cover. I’m constantly dreaming about spending months, even years, on long, in-depth reporting projects, and it seems The Land often takes that approach, too.

Thanks for talking with us.

Check out some of Michael’s work for The Land:

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