Emma Davis, '21

October 15, 2020
Frontline PBS internship offers senior insights on journalistic integrity

At a time when misinformation abounds and cries of "fake news" are a frequent refrain, Emma Davis, ’21, witnessed efforts to promote accuracy and trust in the news media through her summer internship with Frontline PBS.

The University of Richmond awarded Davis, who is double majoring in leadership studies and journalism, a UR Summer Fellowship to support her Jepson internship at Frontline, an investigative journalism program of the Public Broadcasting Service.

Her tasks as an editorial intern included fact-checking, researching, assessing fair use claims, transcribing interviews, vetting story proposals, and assisting reporters.

“I fact-checked quotes and narration lines throughout the production process of Frontline films and podcasts to make sure all statements were accurate and true in the context provided,” Davis said. “Although this can be tedious work involving multiple rounds of edits, it’s necessary for journalistic integrity. It was rewarding to see the effect my fact-checking had on Frontline final products.”

She said she particularly enjoyed working on the trailer for “The Choice 2020: Trump vs. Biden,” a two-hour election special.

“Through its Transparency Project, Frontline released as podcasts all 40-some interviews used in making ‘The Choice,’” Davis said. “People can listen to the podcasts and then assess for themselves the accuracy of the documentary.”

Working remotely was the biggest challenge of her internship, she said. “Newsrooms are so collaborative — having casual conversations with other journalists helps build stories and generates ideas. Maintaining good communication while working remotely was key. I interacted regularly with people through Zoom meetings.”

Her journalism major prepared her well for the nuts and bolts of the job. She added that her leadership studies major — with its emphasis on ethics, critical thinking, and research — also contributed to a successful internship and has helped prepare her for her future career in journalism.

“Understanding how and why people have power and influence can help me in my reporting and in how I interact with others in the newsroom,” Davis said. “Journalists have a unique role because they are tasked with holding leaders accountable. But they are also leaders themselves in that they are writing the first draft of history and must be fair in drafting their narratives.” 

Davis was asked to extend her internship through the fall semester and is currently working 15 hours per week for Frontline. In addition, the Richmond Scholar from Sayville, N.Y., serves as the managing editor of The Collegian (University of Richmond’s student newspaper), is the co-captain of the University Dancers, and maintains a stellar academic record as a full-time student.

“I’m good at time management,” she said with a laugh. “Ultimately, I want to be an investigative reporter writing in-depth, substantive stories that enable me to dig into and really understand issues.”