At ‘Meet the Press,’ a VCU journalism student provides key research behind the scenes
In a June interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chuck Todd asked Sen. Bernie Sanders about a campaign by progressive groups to encourage U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer to step down.
“From one campaign ad: ‘It is time for Justice Stephen Breyer to announce his intent to retire from the Supreme Court,’” Todd said. “Do you think this campaign is appropriate, and would you like to see him retire now?”
“No, I will let the judge make his own decision,” Sanders replied. “I’m not going to tell him what to do.”
That question — along with many others posed this summer on “Meet the Press” — was supported by research conducted by Josephine Walker, a rising senior at Virginia Commonwealth University who is interning at NBC’s long-running public affairs program.
“It was my first show, which made it even better,” Walker said of the Sanders interview. “It was definitely cool and that’s continued to happen the whole summer.”
Walker’s duties at “Meet the Press” include combing through transcripts of past interviews and articles, providing background research for upcoming interviews, as well as drafting potential questions to ask political leaders appearing on the show.
“It’s been an incredible experience,” Walker said. “I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet so many interesting people … and I’m just constantly meeting reporters who have covered huge events. Yesterday I chatted with Mark Murray, who’s a senior political editor for the D.C. bureau [of NBC News] and he gave me some really valuable advice.”
Walker’s prestigious internship comes on the heels of being a recipient of a $10,000 award from the Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship, a partnership between the National Association of Black Journalists and Facebook that aims to support the next generation of journalists and strengthen diversity in journalism and media.
Walker also was one of three Virginia student journalists to be named 2021 summer newsroom fellows by the Virginia Society of Professional Journalists and SDX Educational Foundation. (Another VCU student, Sahara Sriraman, also was named a fellow.) And Walker received a $1,500 award from Virginias Associated Press Broadcasters.
A student in the College of Humanities and Sciences, Walker is double majoring in mass communications, with a concentration in broadcast journalism, in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture, and in political science, with a concentration in U.S. government and politics.
Last summer, she interned with The Globe Post news site, covering the pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong, anti-LGBTQ legislation in Poland, as well as other international breaking news and features. At VCU, Walker was a reporter in the spring with Capital News Service, a Robertson School program in which journalism students cover news in Richmond and across Virginia and distribute stories, photos and other content to newspapers, TV and radio stations, and online news sites.
“It’s been an incredible experience. I’ve gotten the opportunity to meet so many interesting people … and I’m just constantly meeting reporters who have covered huge events."
The Associated Press picked up several of Walker’s Capital News Service stories, including coverage of police reform legislation in Virginia, an effort to expand broadband access to low-income students and a feature, “Glass ceiling on statewide offices remains for Black women,” that was picked up by several national news outlets, including U.S. News & World Report.
“Josephine is one of the most well-rounded students I have taught,” said Alix Bryan-Campos, a Robertson School journalism instructor and co-director of Capital News Service. “She values learning and pushes herself. As a broadcast major, she did not need to take the capstone course Capital News Service, but she worked hard and was published multiple times by The Associated Press. Journalists can be very sensitive about feedback, but she was always willing to make her work as strong as it could be. Josephine is also super sharp and more informed about current events than most adults.”
Aside from academic strength, Bryan-Campos said, Walker also shows “incredible maturity, humility and thoughtfulness.”
“She really helped contribute to a collaborative environment in my classes, and it was amazing to watch those students create such solid work during a pandemic,” Bryan-Campos said. “Josephine has a great mind and personality and I really look forward to seeing her career flourish.”
In the short term, Walker is planning to enter the field of political journalism. Long term, however, her career goals involve working in politics itself.
“Being press secretary one day, that would be the ultimate goal,” she said.
In the meantime, Walker is looking forward to coming back to VCU in the fall.
“Just really excited for all the in-person options,” she said. “Hopefully graduation is kind of normal this year.”