State Government Communication Program

The State Government Communication program (COM 465) operates within today’s shifting communications ecosystem and, as is the case with so many contemporary communications projects, COM 465 is now rapidly evolving. For more than 40 years, the program placed students at traditional journalism outlets to cover public policy and the legislative process from the state Capitol in Olympia. Beginning this year, the new Journalism and Public Interest Communication program seeks to place students at evidence-based and data-driven outlets and organizations across a wider spectrum of the journalism-communication space—for now, at newspapers and news websites, as well as at the communication shops of government agencies.

Note: This class was formerly known as Legislative Reporting, and will continue to take place in Olympia during winter quarters.


Please contact Program Director John Tomasic with questions: tomasic@uw.edu
Deadline to apply for the 2021 program is Monday, October 12.

Possible impacts of COVID-19

The work of transitioning the program this year, however, has been complicated as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to reshape everyday life, and is very likely to significantly affect the 2021 legislative session, forcing lawmakers and communications people of all sorts to work remotely—to attend committee hearings and floor votes from their computer screens, to debate bills and report on those debates in digital space, to host or attend video or audio town halls, and to rely more heavily than ever on legislative websites and databases.

In winter quarter 2020, as in past winter quarters, COM 465 will seek to provide immersive experiences by placing students in paid full-time journalism-communications jobs. Program students gain irreplaceable training in public affairs by working alongside professionals who report on and participate in public policy formulation and state government operations. Program students this year may well perform their work from their home or campus living spaces. Students should expect that logistics around lawmaking and university instruction will continue to evolve to meet shifting public health policies. The Department of Communication and Program Coordinator John Tomasic are committed to keeping students well-informed on developments and prepared to participate fully in the program.

Long-term benefits for Olympia alumni

Recent COM 465 alumni have gone on to report for daily news outlets that include The Seattle Times, Associated Press, Tacoma News Tribune, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Washington Post, Puget Sound Business Journal, NBC and international outlets. Others have become staffers with political parties and politicians at all levels of government. Still others work in nonpartisan government offices. Alumni from the more distant past work at all levels of reporting and management in news outlets around the state, country, and world.

Sample work from recent UW Olympia legislative interns: Claudia Yaw, Shauna Sowersby, Leona Vaughn, Jake Goldstein-Street, Josh Kelety, Agatha Pacheco Flores, Max Wasserman, Walker Orenstein, Cooper Inveen, Izumi Hansen, Grace Swanson, Enrique Perez de la Rosa, Starla Sampaco

Who should apply?

Students who have completed most of the UW Journalism and Public Interest Communication sequence, students who report for The Daily, and/or students with freelance or internship experience are encouraged to apply. Published written, audio or video clips are an important part of the application process.

Where might you work?

Students chosen for this capstone experience have been assigned to cover the Washington Legislature for outlets of all kinds. After mandatory training with UW faculty and other news, government and communications professionals, students work directly with an editor or communications director and are supported by Program Director John Tomasic. In the recent past, interns have been placed at The Seattle Times, Crosscut, Northwest News Network, The News Tribune and The (UW) Daily. A premier UW Olympia partner is the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association (WNPA). Interns for the WNPA report for a network of 110 community news outlets around the state. We are working to expand this list to communication teams within state government agencies and nonprofit organizations.

Students leave the program with a portfolio of published work and professional experience, a deeper understanding of government agencies and processes, and a network of professional contacts inside and outside the journalism-communications industry.

Immersive experience

Applicants must commit to working full time winter quarter. Again, because of the pandemic, the 2021 program will likely be held remotely, not in person in Olympia. The program stipend typically has worked out to about $300 per week for 10 weeks. If participants end up working remotely this year, the stipend will be slightly reduced.

Equipment and credits

If campus and the media equipment room are open, students have access to laptops, cameras, and recorders during their internships paid for by the student technology fee. Students can earn 12 credits for this State Government Communication class.

Application process

To apply, please email all materials listed below in a single PDF to John Tomasic, tomasic@uw.edu.

  • A 1-2 page letter of application that outlines career goals, journalism training and any other relevant public-interest communication experience.
  • Links to four published clips. May be for any regularly publishing news outlet. Send only clips fully reported and written by the applicant. Co-bylined stories will be considered, but are less desirable for the evaluation process.
  • Be sure any professionally used social media accounts appear on your resume.
  • Academic transcript (unofficial is fine).
  • List of journalism classes taken, including instructor’s name.
  • Names and contact information for two references who can speak about your reporting and writing abilities. It’s best if one is an academic contact and the other a professional contact.
  • Please note: Finalists will be interviewed by the program coordinator and may be asked to complete a writing test.

Q. What can I do to improve my chances of being accepted?
A. Submit clips that demonstrate you can cover complex stories and issues. If you don’t have enough good clips, try reporting for The Daily or getting other applicable experience before you apply. Previous intern experience is not required, but can improve your chances.

Q. My GPA isn’t a 4.0. Should I apply?
A. Yes. How well you write and how you performed in internships and journalism classes is more important than overall GPA.

Q. Do some students have an advantage?
A. Students who have connections to Eastern Washington, students with photography or audio reporting skills may have a slight advantage. It makes sense to mention expertise in any of these areas in the application.

Q. May I ask for a specific news outlet or agency?
A. Assignments are made based on the needs of the employer. However, student preference is taken into consideration.

Q. May I live in Seattle and commute?
A. Typically no. This year, see above and below, logistics remain in flux.

Q. Can I work another job?
A. No. The internship is a full-time job, and sometimes, particularly at the end of the session, hours go long. Occasionally an intern is required to work at night or on a Saturday or Sunday.

Q. Can I leave Olympia on the weekends?
A. Typically, yes. Most interns leave on the weekends, except when their employer asks them to cover something (usually only at the end of the session). This year, again, travel logistics of all variety remain in flux.

Q. If the session is conducted mostly remote because of COVID-19, do I still have to live in Olympia?
A. No. The Olympia program will follow the directives of the University. If a domestic travel ban is in place, students will not live in Olympia for this program.

Q. What do interns wear?
A. The Legislature is a formal place. Business attire is appropriate.

Q. How will I find housing?
A. There is a list of homeowners in Olympia who rent out rooms or entire apartments for the session. Interns have also found housing using Craig’s List, notices at The Evergreen State College, and through newspaper ads.

Q. Will I need a car?
A. No.

Q. Do community college transfer students have a chance?
A. Yes. Some of the best performers in recent years have been community college transfer students with previous work experience in unrelated fields. Community college transfer students should list any community college journalism classes or work on their community college newspaper, web magazine or radio station.

Q. What if I’m not a Journalism and Public Interest Communication major?
A.
Preference is given to students who have taken most of the JPIC core sequence. However, students with strong backgrounds in political science or American history who have worked as reporters are also encouraged to apply.

Q. Can a student who is newly admitted to the journalism major get in?
A. At one of the smaller papers, a newly admitted student performed very well. (And students who are not accepted the first time may re-apply next year.)

Q. May students from other colleges and universities apply?
A. Preference is given to UW journalism students, but students from other schools have been accepted in the past.

Q. How many hours will I work?
A. It averages 36-40 hours. At the very end of the session, hours can go long.

Q. May I submit my application early?
A. Yes. It’s a good idea to do so.

Q. How can I get more information?
A. Watch for notices about information sessions AND email John Tomasic tomasic@uw.edu with any questions.

Watch the video above to learn more about the program and hear about our students’ experiences