Andrew Rasmussen, a journalism and political science major, was the recipient of a donor-funded internship opportunity with South Dakota News Watch this summer. The internship began mid-May 2021 and wrapped up the first week of classes this fall.
The internship was created from a partnership between SDSU and South Dakota News Watch called the “Jeffrey B. Nelson Investigative Journalism Endowed Internship.” Nelson received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from SDSU. Following a career in newsroom and academic communication, Nelson returned to SDSU as the director of gift planning. Following Nelson’s passing in 2017, his brother, Barry, wanted to continue their shared cause of advocating for accurate reporting in the public interest by initiating the internship.
To make the internship more feasible, Nelson’s funds were paired with a journalism scholarship in place by Chuck Raasch and Sandy Johnson. With collaboration from the SDSU Foundation, South Dakota News Watch and former School of Communication and Journalism director, Lyle Olson, the prestigious internship was created.
The School of Communication and Journalism has required internships for their journalism students as an experiential learning component of their curriculum for decades. Joshua Westwick, director of the School of Communication and Journalism, explained that internships are transformative for students. “Internships provide an extraordinary opportunity for our students to gain professional experience, in this case, at a highly successful nonprofit news organization,” said Westwick. “The financial support provided by our generous donors broadens access to these unique opportunities for students.”
About South Dakota News Watch
South Dakota News Watch is a nonprofit organization located in Sioux Falls. Founded in 2017, they are “committed to reporting the most important statewide stories, from agriculture to education, public safety to politics.”
Content is published for free on their website, with journalists reporting on big picture stories. Media organizations can then publish the material from South Dakota News Watch to their own channels and publications. Funded through grants, key partners and individual contributions, South Dakota News Watch wants to “engage residents and connect them with elected leaders who can make a difference.”
Rasmussen is the current Students’ Association president and former news and opinion editor and reporter for The Collegian, the student-operated newspaper on campus.
His background in public affairs reporting, feature writing and media law influenced Rasmussen’s interest in investigative reporting. With the encouragement of internship coordinator for the School of Communication and Journalism, Jim Helland, Rasmussen applied for the competitive internship and received notice of his acceptance at the end of the 2021 spring semester.
During his internship, Rasmussen wrote three original articles for South Dakota News Watch and assisted with another one. The topics covered were used car shortages, summer school offerings in South Dakota and nursing shortages. These articles were widely published across the state, giving Rasmussen the opportunity to write for a large audience.
“This internship allowed me to put skills learned in the classroom into practice,” said Rasmussen. “I was responsible for writing the story, collecting art, writing a radio script and recording radio audio. The wide variety of tasks allowed me to build my writing skills while further developing other skills important to the communication field.”
Bart Pfankuch, content director for South Dakota News Watch, said Rasmussen did a fine job during his time with the news organization. “I think the internship was a valuable experience for Andrew, as he was given the opportunity to report, write and publish articles he can use as work samples if he pursues a job in journalism after graduation,” said Pfankuch. “It was a great experience for News Watch, as one of our goals is to help build a strong foundation for future journalists in South Dakota and this was a big first step for our organization in that regard.”
Pfankuch stated that South Dakota News Watch is intending to hire another intern for summer 2022.
Rasmussen’s time at South Dakota News Watch has been able to continue. Following the completion of his summer internship, the news organization extended him an opportunity to continue working as a freelance reporter during the school year. A recent article published by Rasmussen can be found on the South Dakota News Watch website.
To learn more about the internship opportunities within the School of Communication and Journalism, contact Jim Helland.