Q&A: Owen MacMillan, local government reporting intern with The Land

Owen MacMillan is a recent graduate of Kent State University’s journalism school who is working as a summer intern with The Land. We recently caught up with Owen to ask him what he learned while at KSU, why journalism, and what he’s getting out of working with The Land.

What attracted you to working with The Land?

I found out about The Land through Sue Zake, the advisor for Kent State student media and my professor. She recommended it to me because I had been doing similar community-focused journalism work with The Portager, an outlet covering Portage County. As soon as I started reading stories from The Land I knew I wanted to be involved there. I love the solutions-based angles we try to focus on and the community journalism program is so important.

What have you been working on so far? 

I have been working on a story on the city of Cleveland’s 311 call center, seeking to explain to citizens how it works while also exploring changes the city either plans to make or could make to improve the experience of residents. I have also been working on Cleveland testing a pilot program of “speed tables” which are part of the city’s effort to reduce and ultimately eliminate traffic fatalities.

What did you learn at Kent State that you’re able to apply to this new role? 

Kent State has a tremendous journalism program, and the professors I had helped me explore my abilities as a writer and reporter. I am thrilled to still be working with one of them, Sue Zake, who will continue to edit my work and offer advice in my reporting through the KSU NewsLab program.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned so far? 

The most valuable thing I have learned so far is that simply calling or emailing sources and hoping they get back is simply not enough. When you are covering real issues that residents face every day, you have to put in the extra leg work to make sure you are talking to the people and gathering the information that those residents need. The willingness to go to offices, job sites, etc. in person to insure you are getting that done is critical.

What’s next for you? 

I do not have an exact plan after my time at The Land, but I know I will continue to freelance for the outlets I have already worked with and love writing for. I am moving to Lakewood shortly, and I will be looking for a full time job in journalism while I continue to freelance.

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