Department of English

English Major Is Awarded Coveted

Dow Jones News Fund Internship

It was 10 p.m. in downtown Wilmington. It was Dec. 9, and Jessica Knight was 20 years old, and it was her birthday.

It was the end of exams, the UNCW senior was with three friends, and she ran up the stoJessica Knight - Photo by Kathy Rugoffne steps of the Water Street courthouse and raised her hands in a victory vee at the top next to the fountain.

Life doesn't get much better than this, Jessica thought.

And then, the next day, it did.

her mother's Calabash coffeehouse, CoffeeDog.

It was Dec. 10, and about midday Jessica's cell phone rang. She looked at the number. The area code was strange, and she was tempted not to answer.

"I felt like I should answer," Jessica now says.

On the other end of the line was Ed Trayes, professor of journalism at Philadelphia's Temple University.

His message: Pack your bags.

Jessica had just been named one of the fewer than 100 students nationwide to win a 2010 Dow Jones Newspaper Fund summer internship.

Her mouth dropped open, and Jessica doesn't remember what she said.

"I just listened," she said.

Jessica is an English major with a journalism minor, and will spend nine days of intense training at Temple University before she heads north to Hartford, Connecticut, where she will intern at the Hartford Courant, a Times-Mirror newspaper that won Pulitzer Prizes in 1992, 1998 and 1999. The Courant has a circulation of more than 200,000 daily and almost 300,000 on Sundays and is the country's oldest newspaper in continuous operation.

Jessica will intern as part of the Newspaper Copy Editing Program. Fewer than 100 college students nationwide are chosen for these paid internships, and Jessica will be UNCW's first student to achieve this, one of the most coveted newspaper internships in the country.

"If not for the help of Bill DiNome, Janis Chakars and Shirley Mathews, this would be just a dream I'd be having while pulling down lattes at my mom's coffee shop," Jessica says. "I needed to get on a path and just start walking."

Winning the internship almost didn't happen.

"I almost didn't apply because I was busy with another internship and midterms, but a week before the exam, I decided to just go for it. I studied, and I thought the exam went alright," Jessica says. "I knew I was competing with people from journalism schools across the country, while I'm an English major who has taken only two journalism courses. I didn't think I would ever be selected."

"As I worked on the application, I felt even more under qualified. I haven't worked on my school newspaper. I have not taken any type of reporting or magazine writing class. I am not a journalism or mass communications major. But, I knew that I enjoyed editing and that it is something I've instinctively done since I was a child. This is how I approached the essay portion of the application. I was frustrated with the essay because I had written three drafts, none of which were good enough. Finally, with the deadline pressing, I gutted my essay and wrote the stripped down truth: I edit. It's what I do."

After all of this, when she got the final phone call, Jessica only had one more question.

What's the next step?"

"Celebrate," said Trayes.

Think you've got what it takes? Here's Jessica's winning essay.

Here's more on the Dow Jones News Fund and how to apply. even has most of the past tests online that you can use to practice for the DJNF.