Skip to content
Loading...

The Sanford School is the home of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy, Duke University’s hub for journalism and media studies. Among other things, the center publishes The 9th Street Journal, and offers a new minor in journalism. Here are three stories about student journalists who graduated in the class of 2024.

Reporter, The 9th Street Journal

Charlotte Kramon

Loading...

When Charlotte Kramon was growing up, she dreamed of becoming a White House correspondent. She kept a notebook full of stories and followed TV anchors like Anderson Cooper. In her spare time, she listened to wonky podcasts about policy issues. 

“Did I understand most of them?” she says with a smile. “Probably not. But at the time I thought I did.” 

At Duke, Charlotte dove more deeply into journalism, discovering a passion for investigative reporting and a more nuanced view of the South.  

Image
Woman with long curly brown hair
In July, Charlotte heads to Atlanta, Georgia, where she’ll work for the Associated Press.

In July, Charlotte heads to Atlanta, Georgia, where she’ll work for the Associated Press covering voting rights, the Georgia statehouse and the 2024 election in a position supported by Report for America.

It’s a dream job for Charlotte, who still loves politics and will be reporting on a pivotal state in the 2024 election. She is also quick to point out that Atlanta has been front-and-center in national debates about criminal justice, another area of deep interest to her.

Race, politics, criminal justice, the legacy of the Civil Rights era — Charlotte gained a deeper appreciation for these topics as a student reporter. 

“Being able to work at The 9th Street Journal, where I’m covering Durham, made me really fall in love with Durham,” Charlotte says. “It’s so rich. As you’re reporting, moving around this area, you can sense the history — it’s very palpable.”

Charlotte grew up in Los Angeles, with scant knowledge about the South. Her  experience reporting on Durham gave her a window into a different, more complex region than the one she had imagined from a distance. 

Charlotte enjoys writing stories that surprise, and that cut against stereotypes. For instance, a story she wrote for a courthouse reporting seminar described the changing face of gun ownership — the fact that local gun sales are rising among people of color. She also broke a story about the Durham sheriff’s troubling presentation to the Duke football team — a presentation that included misinformation about Black motorists at traffic stops. 

Charlotte built on her 9th Street experience with summer internships at the Charlotte Observer and the Los Angeles Times. 

Then she learned about an incident that no one had reported on, about a UNC student who died of an overdose. She went after the story, spending hours seeking court documents and medical examiner’s records, conducting interviews and sitting through courtroom hearings. 

The resulting series in the Assembly, a statewide newsmagazine, recently won first place in the Melcher Award competition. The contest recognizes Duke undergraduates for the best journalistic work produced in the previous year.

Charlotte credits her reporting success in part to the personal attention she experienced in the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy.  

“We get so much individualized mentorship,” Charlotte says. “The attentiveness of the people who work in this program, the individualized guidance, the awesome workshops and classes and speakers…it allows us to grow into the best journalists we can be.”

She also has fond memories of the strong student community in the Reporters’ Lab.

“I think everyone who’s in this program is really excited and eager about journalism,” she said. “And we’re able to bond over that common interest in keeping democracy healthy and alive.”

Charlotte says her student journalism experience not only helped shape her as a reporter, but also taught her important life lessons.

“I think journalism teaches you about systems and people and politics in a way that traditional academia and classes can’t,” she said.

“Going into the real world and talking to real people and then being asked to take complex policy ideas and boil them down for a broader audience, while also bringing in real stories — that teaches you more than putting together a research paper, in my opinion.”

In a few days, she heads to Atlanta to start looking for an apartment.

“I could not be more excited,” Charlotte says. “It’s a perfect job.”

Then she glances down at her phone. Anyone who knows Charlotte won’t be surprised to learn why. Her phone is lighting up with calls she needs to return, coming in from the Atlanta area code.

Ever the reporter, she is already cultivating sources.


 

Reporter, The 9th Street Journal

Akiya Dillon

Loading...

When Akiya Dillon arrived at Duke, she knew she was interested in criminal justice and in the world beyond campus walls. But the pandemic was raging, and Akiya had limited exposure to the local community.

That changed when she joined the staff of The 9th Street Journal as a summer intern after her sophomore year. Her first story for 9th Street plunged her into an impassioned hearing about redevelopment in Durham’s Hayti district, a predominantly Black neighborhood with a storied history.

Image
woman in cap and gown, smiling
After graduation, Akiya will spend the summer reporting for Newsday. Then she heads home to report for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“It was just really remarkable for me to sit there and take in how much people cared about their city,” Akiya recalls. “It was an experience I don’t think I would have gotten outside of journalism.”

That story awakened Akiya’s curiosity about the Durham community. From that point on, she went on to write many stories that took her into Durham churches, homes and courtrooms.

Her stories often focused on what happens when people tangle with the criminal justice system — a topic she has also explored as a founding member of the Duke Justice Project, an advocacy and service group that, among other things, offers tutoring to people after incarceration.

In one story, she told the tale of how a burned bagel resulted in a woman’s seven-month courtroom ordeal. The Pearlie Williams story “taught me a lot about sensitive reporting and the line between being an advocate and being a reporter,” she says.

Akiya dug deeper into the world of criminal justice as a student in Stephen Buckley’s courthouse reporting class. One story in particular left a strong impression.

On assignment for class, she went to a hearing devoted to restorative justice. In this alternative form of justice, victims of crime meet with perpetrators and develop a plan focussed on reconciliation and repair.

The case centered on a murder. Donald Fields Jr. stabbed his father to death and served six years in prison for the crime. He was in court three months after his release, to gauge how well he was doing.

Akiya arrived in the courtroom and found a remarkable scene: A convicted murderer and the victim’s relatives in court together speaking calmly, even warmly. At one point the victim’s brother took the stand to testify — on Fields’ behalf.  

“When I walked in, the whole vibe of the courtroom was very different than anything I had experienced prior,” Akiya says. “People were smiling and hugging each other.”

She was the only reporter in the room.

She broke the story, which was later covered by other outlets, including The Guardian. 

Along the way, Akiya also interned at the Los Angeles Times. But when she looks back on her journalism experience thus far, what stands out to her most is the personal attention and mentorship she has received at Duke.

“If I hadn’t discovered the DeWitt Wallace Center I had not probably would not have stumbled into journalism,” she says. “The main reason journalism was something I pursued was the one-on-one connection and support you get from professors and faculty here. I felt somebody cared about me and was invested in me.”

After graduation, Akiya will head north to spend the summer reporting for Newsday. While there, she plans to visit Manhattan for the first time, and she’s excited to experience a new city.

Then she heads home to report for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, covering crime and breaking news. She’s excited to experience her home city from that vantage point.

“I really love covering stories of people who don't get a voice very often,” Akiya says.


 

Reporter, the 9th Street Journal

Nicole Kagan

Loading...

Nicole Kagan’s introduction to the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy came when she visited Duke during her junior year of high school. She arranged to visit Bill Adair’s advanced journalism class — the class that created what is now The 9th Street Journal.

She arrived at the class location, Sanford 143, and stopped short.

“I was very confused, I thought I had the wrong place,” Nicole recalls. “Because what I walked into was of course Bill’s office, and students are on the couch and eating snacks and talking about their ledes, all that stuff. I didn’t say a single word.”

“It was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.”

At Duke, Nicole joined the staff of The 9th Street Journal, writing stories ranging from an account of Elon Musk’s harassment of a Duke professor to a fly-on-the wall report on Mardi Gras, Bull City-style.

She also worked for all four years as one of Adair’s research assistants on his book “Beyond the Big Lie: The epidemic of political lying, why Republicans do it more, and how it could burn down our democracy,” due out in October from Simon & Schuster.

“Bill from the start was the most amazing mentor, instrumental to my journalism career in every way, at Duke and beyond,” Nicole says.

Image
Woman holding front page of newspaper
Nicole holding the front page of the Boston Globe which features her story 

Nicole spent a summer interning for 9th Street before landing internships at the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe.

Her experience at the Globe confirmed her passion for journalism.

“I fell in love with journalism all over again,” she says. “Being in the room with a Pulitzer Prize-winner to my left and a fellow student to my right… I felt very immersed in the newsroom. It was an amazing experience.”

Nicole is still weighing her post-graduation possibilities, which range from a podcasting network to a print magazine.

Wherever she ends up, she says she’ll miss the DeWitt-Wallace hallway.

“It’s been fun to sort of develop relationships with each office along the way — so that it takes me longer and longer to get to the Reporters’ Lab,” she says.

Without the center, she says, her four years at Duke would have been entirely different.

“I truly could not imagine my Duke experience without the relationships and experiences that I’ve made and had in this hallway,” she says.

“I constantly am bragging to all my friends about the Reporters’ Lab and 9th Street and the DeWitt Wallace Center. I think you all together provide a very unique experience for college students.”