Brandon Stump is only a junior at West Virginia University, but he is already making a name for himself at USA Today, covering some of the biggest news stories of the summer.
A couple of weeks ago, the news-editorial major from Kingwood was one of the first journalists in the country to learn a missing Boy Scout had been found alive in Utah.
There was an instance when I was talking to a source, and the information was broken to me before it was broken to the media,Stump recalled.It was neat because Im an intern. I went back and told my editor at USA Today. It wasnt even on CNN or ABC , and 10 minutes later, it broke.
That news tip plus stints in the news and dot-com departments at USA Today, the nations largest daily newspaper with a circulation of 2.3 million, could be just the thing to launch the career of the young journalist.
Often more than one reporter will work on a story,he said.I basically worked the phone and searched the Internet for contact information like phone numbers of the boys neighbors. I would interview them over the phone and do a write-up on what I had gathered. Editors would work as a team, compiling interview material.
Stumps persistence on the phone paid off. He earned contributor credits two days in a row for the Boy Scout story.
He landed his dream internship at USA Today after being accepted into the competitive Institute of Political Journalism in Washington, D.C. Only about 80 of the best journalism students across the country are selected for the summer program.
The institute has helped launch the careers of some of the most recognized names in journalism: Lisa Meyers, NBC News chief congressional correspondent; Kevin Kellems, press secretary for Vice President Cheney; David Muir, ABC News correspondent and anchor; and Tim Craig, staff writer for The Washington Post, to name a few.
This summer, Stump is splitting his time between taking classes and working the general assignment desk at USA Today. He lives in a residence hall at Georgetown University and takes a bus to the newsroom. Sometimes the commute can take up to an hour, but the WVU student doesnt mind.
You take different things out of it,he said.Its neat to see the business aspect of a big corporate-type paperwhat makes the news, whats going to make the paper sell. I think its a valuable lesson.
Stumps summer has been full of memorable moments. Besides covering the rescue of the missing Boy Scout, he got to interview members of Texas EquuSearch, the volunteer group assisting with the search for Alabama teen-ager Natalee Holloway in Aruba.
Calling people with the Boy Scouts and ArubaI wont be doing that in Morgantown,he said.
Another key moment was when he participated in a Capitol Hill briefing with Reps. Randy Forbes, R-Va., Bernard Sanders, Ind.-Vt., and Dan Boren, D-Okla.and the occasion he saw President George W. Bush.
He was speaking about Social Security,Stump said.It was the first time Id seen the president in person. It was interesting and different because it wasnt just a speech. Not many people can say theyve seen the president. Whether you like him or not, hes still the president.
When the WVU student isnt rubbing elbows with politicians, hes taking classes in journalism ethicsand economics and public policy.
Its like a summer semester at school,he said.Theres a lot of discussion and a lot of reading100 pages a week on top of my work schedule and ethics class.
Stump also attends guest lectures given by professional journalists from state and national media outlets such as FOX News every other Wednesday.
The lectures are not just about how they got their jobs, but how theyve covered stories and how the medias changing,he said.
While some people might find it difficult to juggle an internship, classes and activities, Stump said his experience at WVU s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism has given him a leg up on his peers.
An example would be work ethic,he said,and knowing what you want out of a situation. Sometimes people are complacent, but you strive for more, and you want to find out more.
Stump, who wants to be a writer for The New York Times, credits his WVU professors with helping him gain the confidence he needs to be a professional journalist.
Faculty like Pam and Ralph Hanson in WVU s School of Journalism really make the difference,he said.Theyre basically the reason why I like this stuff, and they help you hone in on what youre good at.
When the summer program at the institute ends July 30, Stump would like to return to Morgantown and report for a local newspaper while he finishes his degree. He hopes to attend law school at New York University and is considering a career as a newspaper reporter, defense attorney or politician.
Stump, who has also interned with The Dominion Post, is one of two WVU journalism students chosen for the Institute of Political Journalism this summer. Cara Spaziani, also a news-editorial major, is interning with Knight Ridder, the second-largest newspaper publisher in the nation.
Stump isnt the only WVU connection to USA Today. Among the Universitys famous J-school alumni is J. Ford Huffman, a 1972 WVU graduate and deputy managing editor at USA Today, who oversees graphics, photography and the design and direction of Page One.