Medill is back on the Hill: Students dive into politics coverage from the nation’s capital


Photo courtesy of Mikayla Denault

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Cori Bush speak at an immigration protest. The event was covered by Medill on the Hill students.

Catherine Odom, Reporter

Medill sophomore Mikayla Denault has wanted to be a political reporter since she was young. Now, she’s covering protests in Washington, D.C. and quoting U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-MO) through the Medill on the Hill program. 

Denault is one of 14 journalism students reporting on the U.S. government in Washington this fall for Medill News Service. The program resumed this fall after a year-and-a-half hiatus.

Students in Medill on the Hill are fully immersed in the reporting process for a whole quarter. They attend newsroom meetings, write daily and long-form stories and promote news on social media, according to program director and Medill Prof. Ellen Shearer, who is also the journalism school’s Washington Bureau chief. Outside of the newsroom, students are enrolled in journalism and political science classes. 

Shearer said the program offers students the chance to practice reporting around the industry’s best journalists.

“The students are getting great stories,” Shearer said. “Working in the environment gives (students) the opportunity to really grow their own confidence and their own storytelling skills.” 

As a broadcast journalist, Denault said reporting in-person has been a highlight of her experience. Through covering hearings, protests and other events, she’s been able to build her portfolio, she said.

Medill sophomore Hannah Jiang said she appreciates the program’s proximity to news stories with international impact.

Jiang covered Saturday’s Women’s March. At the march, she spoke with activists for a long-form story she’s currently working on about reproductive rights in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

“It was just really amazing talking to people on the streets at the heart of politics. It’s been great,” Jiang said.

Shearer said there are several COVID-19 precautions in place, including local mask mandates and attendance limits on hearings and meetings. Though navigating pandemic-era precautions has been a challenge, she said program coordinators and students are adapting well.

Former Director of Medill Washington Programs Joie Chen, who participated in Medill on the Hill as a student, said the program shaped her career. She added that Washington is a great city for budding journalists to build their skills.

“I hope the reopening of the D.C. program is a sign that current Medill leadership recognizes how important learning to cover Washington is,” Chen said in an email to The Daily. “It’s important to the careers of Medill students, and it’s important to democracy that the next generation of journalists learn how things really work here.”

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