Joshua Axelrod: CNN Internship

At Tulane, I work with the fearless members of the Hullabaloo to tell stories that matter in an engaging and accessible way. This summer, with the same goal in mind, I moved from the local to the national level.

I spent the summer working at CNN as a Digital Programming intern – each day I was curating and controlling the feed of the CNN mobile app for 11+ million daily unique visitors. It’s hard for me to believe how many people interacted with my work every day. I made decisions about where each story went on the feed using analytics software and my editorial judgement, chose images, wrote headlines and packaged similar content in collections. In my free time, I also was able to do some writing for the CNN trends team looking for stories that pop, dazzle and excite for social-media-minded audiences. I wrote stories on prognosticating animals, soccer audiences, and a church that worships a jazz musician. Some of my stories have been the highest trafficked articles on the CNN homepage, received over half a million views or were retweeted and shared by high-profile influencers.

Though in today’s news climate, each day the spout of political news floods into our feeds, I felt this was a particularly hectic summer. We were following themes and threads throughout my few months at CNN that escalated and climaxed while I was on the job. Throughout my short stint, I was programming the Thai cave rescue, the Capital Gazette shooting, the Los Angeles Trader Joe’s shooting, the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, the revelation that Michael Cohen had recordings of President Trump – and then the exclusive release of those tapes to our very own network – the World Cup, the scandals and ultimate resignation of Scott Pruitt, and so much more. The days were long and sometimes unbearably (yet excitedly) chaotic with each incoming article demanding my attention and news judgement.

Atlanta is the original headquarters of CNN and where much of the digital firepower is still stationed. It took a leap of faith and a burst of courage to move to this new city for a full summer. However, more than my own personal discomfort at adjusting to an entirely new place, the cost of housing threatened to make this life-changing dream an unrealized opportunity. With the generous support of NTC, I was able to afford my housing and live in a safe and comfortable home that gave me the emotional stability to thrive in my challenging work environment. I was living with other CNN interns, a convenient set-up for networking and friend-making. Through my living situation, I made valuable connections with other ambitious journalists and even made some best friends, whom inspire me to return to CNN so we can work alongside together. I look forward to bringing my lessons in journalism back to the Hullabaloo. No matter the size or scale of my audience, the lessons afforded to me by NTC and CNN will remain fresh and resonant in my journalism career – I could not be more grateful for this privilege and intend to wield the fruits of my summer internship experience responsibly as I continue searching for accessible and engaging content and using writing and storytelling as a force for good.

Written by Joshua Axelrod, Ching Grant recipient, 2018