Students from The Thacher School in California, a News Decoder partner, gained first-hand experience in nonprofit, fashion and television journalism.

newspaper run by prisoners offers a new chance to convicts

Elena Townsend-Lerdo interviewed Jonathan Chiu, an editor for the only prison-run newspaper in the United States, for her December 2020 News Decoder article on the Prison Journalism Project (Photo by Christie Goshe)

Students at The Thacher School in California who participated in News Decoder during the 2020–21 academic year continued their journalistic pursuits during the break between school years.

Thacher is one of 20 schools that partner with News Decoder and whose students publish multimedia content, produce webinars on major global issues, work with experienced foreign correspondents and engage in cross-border activities that expand their horizons.

During their summer holidays before returning to school, three Thacher students built on their News Decoder work with journalistic experiences.

Elena Townsend-Lerdo, who last December published an article on News Decoder about the only prison-run newspaper in the United States, scored a summer internship with The Prison Journalism Project (PJP). PJP is a national, independent initiative that “trains incarcerated writers to be journalists and publishes their stories.”

“A big part of PJP’s mission is centering the voices of people actually in prison in the conversations about prison conditions and reform,” Townsend-Lerdo said. “So getting journalists from inside those walls gives us the best, most effective voice.”

As an editorial intern, Townsend-Lerdo edits, refines, transcribes and schedules stories submitted by incarcerated writers. But the experience has taught her more than hard journalistic skills, she said.

“I’ve learned so much from our writers. Every day when I’m editing a news story, essay or personal memoir, it’s like this little deep dive into someone’s life, someone’s experiences. It’s moving and touching.”

Student Ambassador takes journalism course.

Keira Yin, a News Decoder Student Ambassador last year, combined her passion for fashion and journalism through The School of the New York Times Summer Academy course “The Future of Fashion.” The course offered a deep dive into new innovations in the fashion industry, featuring topics such as the role of technology and sustainability in clothing.

Through the program, Yin interviewed Vanessa Friedman, Chief Fashion Critic for The New York Times. “We talked about how pieces of clothing can make political statements, even foreign policy statements, like Queen Elizabeth’s brooches did when she met Trump,” Yin said. A tweet went viral suggesting that the Queen’s decision to wear a brooch gifted by the Obamas was a slight toward Trump.

Yin said her experience opened her eyes to how journalism can be used to explore the intersection of many different topics.

“I used to think that if I wanted to do journalism, I had to write about this one thing,” Yin said. “But now I think it’s more interesting to find the connections between different fields.”

From News Decoder webinar to ‘Morning Joe’

Anna Kelly, a participant in the News Decoder global webinar with Transylvania College in Romania, interned on the set of Morning Joe, a political news and talk show hosted by Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski and Willie Geist on the U.S. television channel MSNBC.

Kelly scored a first-hand glimpse of behind-the-scenes broadcast journalism.

“The show aired from 6 to 9 in the morning,” Kelly said. “I would be in the studio with them with an earpiece. I would bring Mika and Joe their scripts live if they got an update, get them coffee, and if they dropped something I would have to crawl under their cameras and try not to be on air and hand them their pencil.”

Kelly said the most exciting part was seeing live news updates come in.

“I was in the studio when they got the breaking news message that Simone Biles had withdrawn from the women’s all-around finals, so it was interesting to hear news exactly as it comes into the media,” Kelly said.


Christina MacCorkle, a summer 2021 intern with News Decoder, is in her last year of high school at The Thacher School in California and grew up in China. She is an editor-in-chief of Thacher’s newspaper, The Notes, and hopes to continue journalism in college. Her favorite subjects include English and History.

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News Decoder UpdatesNews Decoder students dive deeper into journalism over break