Reporting All Over the Map

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If there’s one thing Kate Wells (US’06, C’10) has in her work as a reporter for Michigan Radio (an affiliate of NPR), it’s variety. In a typical two-week span recently, she covered Medicaid expansion, the financial crisis in Michigan’s public schools, and the debate over the deportation of a Senegalese artist in Detroit whose life, as an openly gay man, would be in danger in Senegal.

“It’s awesome!” exclaims Wells. “It’s the most fun job I can ever imagine.

But you need to be able to be conversant very quickly in a lot of different things.” Fortunately, the multidisciplinary approach to learning at Principia prepared her for this. Professors who challenged her to write arguments—and then deftly knocked them down—helped a lot, too. “I think that’s the best way to learn how to write,” she comments.

The summer after her junior year at the College, Wells interned at New Hampshire Public Radio and knew, after the first day, that she was hooked—for life. The following summer she interned with Iowa Public Radio during the lead-up to the Iowa presidential caucuses. At the end of that summer, she was offered a full-time position and spent the next two years covering national news in the run-up to the 2012 elections. “It was an amazing way to learn by being thrown into the deep end,” she says.

During this time, Wells won a regional Edward R. Murrow Award for her story on robocalls, a new, unregulated type of political advertisement that allows one to create an ad quickly and broadcast it to a large audience for pennies a call—without anyone being able to trace its origin. “I’m really proud of that piece,” Wells reflects. “It had its own voice.” As she describes it, the piece was able to say, “This is craziness, and this is how it works, and let’s think a little about it instead of just being finger-wagging. It was a lot of fun. There was humor in it, we laughed, and then it won a regional Edward R. Murrow. I was incredibly humbled and grateful.

Update: Kate Wells delivered this year’s keynote at the Upper School Cum Laude chapel on Monday, May 19.

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of Principia Purpose.