Fellows tackle innovative campaign finance, community sports stories with partner newsrooms

Quinn Ritzdorf
Quinn Ritzdorf
Annika Merrilees
Annika Merrilees

Two newsrooms will benefit this spring from the help of tech-savvy University of Missouri journalists partnering with them on projects as RJI Student Innovation Fellows.

Graduate student Annika Merrilees of Half Moon Bay, California, will head to ABC News’ Washington Bureau where she will help with campaign finance and data journalism reporting projects.

Junior Quinn Ritzdorf of Denver will work at the Greeley Tribune in Greeley, Colorado, which is a new fellowship partner this year. He will produce multimedia content for a newsletter dedicated to a high school sports league.

The spring 2019 semester marks the first anniversary of the fellowship program, which embeds students in a newsroom for a semester to help with projects employing innovative technologies, storytelling techniques and revenue models. Students work 30 hours a week at their appointed newsrooms.

Each media outlet partners with RJI to provide a stipend to help their fellow with living expenses. The company is also asked to provide a mentor and to allow the student to publish lessons learned on the RJI website at the completion of the fellowship that could transfer to other news organizations.

Other recent fellowship partners have included Mic, NowThis, PolitiFact, Raycom Media and The Seattle Times.

Meet the students

Annika Merrilees, who is pursuing a master’s in investigative reporting, will help with the reporting projects as the bureau focuses on the new Congress and 2020 presidential race.

“As our RJI Student Innovation Fellow, Annika will be poised to help us cover these two vast storylines, and her background in investigative journalism and computer-assisted reporting will bring even more added value to the team,” said Stacia Deshisku, deputy bureau chief at ABC News.

Merrilees said she’s looking forward to learning from the professionals at ABC News. She recently completed a computer-assisted reporting class and covered the Missouri Legislature and Missouri Supreme Court during her advanced reporting class.

“Having those days where you untangle something that’s complicated and do it on a tight deadline is fun and exciting,” she said. “I anticipate that those are going to be the experiences that I will be grateful I had once I get there.”

Convergence journalism student Quinn Ritzdorf’s work experience includes in-depth multimedia reporting for KBIA-FM and developing video feature stories for Vox Magazine. He was recently asked to help create and design an editorial newsletter to help cover MU’s basketball teams as part of a collaboration between KOMU-TV and the Columbia Missourian.

Ritzdorf said he’s excited to return to his home state and expand his skills in a new newsroom setting.

“Wow, Quinn is amazing, when you think of what you want in a reporter regarding their abilities to tell stories on multiple platforms,” said Bryce Jacobson, publisher of the Tribune. “He matches those expectations precisely.”

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