Kathryn Kenny was 12 years old when she decided to become a journalist. Her aunt, who used to work as a newspaper reporter, was her primary inspiration.
“She taught me how to interview people,” she said. “I had a camera at my house, so I got some practice by doing mock interviews with my grandparents.”
At 14, Ms. Kenny landed her first internship as a print reporter at a small newspaper in her hometown of Indianapolis. Finding stories was never a problem for her.
“My dad owned a barber shop, so his clients used to come and talk about the latest gossip,” she said. “I’ve always carried a notebook with me, so I would take notes of everything I heard from these conversations. I perched my ears to the conversation of my community.”
Those notes often served as the basis for stories that she reported and wrote for The Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper. Topics included child pregnancy, gang violence and children of incarcerated parents, she said. Her family was highly proud of their young reporter, whose work was already having an impact on their community. “I remember my dad coming to his barber shop, holding the newspaper and saying, ‘Look at my baby’s work!’ ” she said.
Since then, Ms. Kenny, who is now 22 and holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from Hampton University, has covered several national educational issues. Her portfolio includes stories about student loan interest rate increases and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to revamp school lunches across the country. She still loves reporting on social issues.
“There are so many undercovered issues currently happening to minority groups in our country,” she said. “I want to be the one to tell these stories.”
As a student at The New York Times institute, Ms. Kenny is doing just that. She is currently investigating the school system in New Orleans and researching the various kinds of educational institutions throughout the city. She hopes to compare the effects of the four overlapping school districts in NOLA by writing narratives about students from those districts.
“I’ve always been interested in education,” said Ms. Kenny, whose next goal is to obtain a master’s degree in journalism. “It affects everyone’s lives.”