Mornings at KMUW start with a meeting in the newsroom in their Old Town office. Tom Shine and his reporters stand around a table and discuss the stories for that day and beyond.
Some are routine – attend the mayor’s briefing or Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Others send reporters on a quest for information about diseased bats in northwest Kansas or on an electric scooter ride.
“Every time I tell someone I’m an intern at KMUW they say, ‘Wow, that awesome,’ and they think it’s a great thing, which it is,” Wichita State senior Kylie Cameron said. “I came here and I realized there was still so much to learn. Audio, radio, writing for voice. It’s definitely made me more of a jack-of-all trades.”
From those discussions, Cameron and Kevin Benavides started their summer internships at KMUW (89.1 FM). They reported and wrote stories for radio and the web on the Sedgwick County Fair, elections, Juneteenth and the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. While they don’t perform on-air duties, they are expected to fill all of the other reporting tasks.
“We treat them as a member of the staff,” Shine said. “All of them are writing stories, if not their first day, then their second day. Both Kevin and Kylie have covered events by themselves, news conferences, mayor’s briefings.”
Cameron received a variety of assignments and instructions from Shine, director of news and public affairs. Her writing and reporting work ranged from City Council meetings to elections.
Benavides, a senior strategic communications major, rode a scooter as part of their introduction to the downtown streets and sidewalks and learned how Morning Edition host Jonathan Huber runs on little sleep.
“The experience of being a journalist, being a reporter – I didn’t know where I was going to go with major,” Benavides said. “When I got this internship, I still wasn’t entirely sure if I was going to enjoy it. What it really did was really solidify a base for me and open my eyes to what I can do and what I can be good at.”
Cameron, a senior political science and journalism major, lugged recording equipment to a law enforcement news conference. She considered herself on the transportation beat, writing and reporting about parking and covering City Council meetings during discussions about the scooters. She reported on diseased bats in Rooks County in northwest Kansas, a story for which her mother, a bat enthusiast, helped develop questions.
The tight writing required for radio spots will help her during her time as editor of the Sunflower. She is learning to weigh every word and cut ones that don’t help the reader or listener.
“Once you actually go out and you start writing, you just learn even more, especially when you’re writing for a professional, actual work.” she said. “I’m more aware of the words I’m actually writing down.
KMUW started its internship program in 2018, soon after Shine’s arrival after 37 years at The Wichita Eagle. The station uses two interns from the Elliott School of Communication each spring, summer and fall to supplement its staff with 16-hour work weeks.
“I think the skills you learn are transferable to a lot of industries,” Shine said. “Even if they decide that they like it, but they want to do marketing or communications work, that’s fine. At least now they’ve been on the other side of the table and they understand something about deadlines, stories and what the media needs and how the media operates.”
KMUW also hires marketing and engagement interns from the Elliott School. When Shine speaks to students, he impresses upon them Wichita’s many applied learning options for students in communications.
“This is a media center,” he said. “This city’s got everything – advertising agencies, marketing agencies, big corporations with communications departments, non-profits, radio, TV.”
The internship program is another example of KMUW’s growth in serving Wichita’s need for news and community engagement. In development, Shine said, is a weekly eight-minute local news program, tentatively called “The Range.”
“We think there’s a need for more locally produced news and we’re trying to help fill that void a little bit,” he said. “It will provide information on a range of topics. We’re a civic organization, as well as a to a news organization. Part of our mission, for the station overall, is to help improve the community. We think it will improve and help move the community forward by adding more locally produced news."