‘So crazy to think about the impact that a single internship or recommendation from a professor can have on the rest of your life’
When taking a glance at Kate Murphy’s robust resume now, it might be hard to believe there was a time when journalism was never part of her plan. The Elon alumna and journalism major came to Elon to play collegiate women’s soccer – her “life-long goal,” she says – with no intention of pursuing a career in communications. But Professor Janna Anderson’s Reporting for the Public Good course flipped the direction of Murphy’s professional career.
Playing a competitive Division 1 sport and serving as the team’s starting goalie and team captain was no simple task for Murphy. Pursuing interests unrelated to soccer wasn’t on her mind – despite a deep-rooted curiosity in journalism. “I definitely had always had an interest in reporting and journalism, and I knew that I loved to write, but I didn’t really know what that would look like when I came to Elon,” Murphy said.
Anderson’s reporting class introduced Murphy to what she’s always had a passion for: telling others’ stories. At that time, the journalism major had no internship or writing experience under her belt, but she excelled at storytelling and reporting.
And so, thanks to Anderson’s class and the professor’s perpetual interest in her potential, Murphy sought boundaries beyond the soccer field. Following a summer internship with the Burlington Times-News, she began writing sports features for The Pendulum during her junior year. These experiences ultimately led to a fellowship with News21, one of the most prestigious student journalism internships in the country, that changed Murphy’s path forever.
Despite being unfamiliar with the fellowship, and initially hesitant to apply, Murphy filled out the application. It took a lot of convincing, especially from Anderson and School of Communications faculty, Murphy recalled. But without the convincing, Murphy said, her career as she knows it wouldn’t exist.
“If this opportunity hadn’t been presented to me, or if they hadn’t introduced it to me or convinced me to apply, I don’t know that I would be a journalist today,” she said. “[It’s] so crazy to think about the impact that a single internship or recommendation from a professor can have on the rest of your life.”
And, to her surprise, she was more qualified than she thought. In fact, she excelled.
“It wasn’t like I’ve always known that that’s what I wanted to do,” Murphy said of journalism. “But it was just really amazing being recognized for, I think, other skills and recognized for my potential. I think that’s something that was really unique to what Elon professors saw in me and what the School of Communications saw in me and knew that I could step up to the plate.”
During her News21 fellowship, Murphy was one of 29 student journalists from across the country to participate in the 2014 cohort, and she developed her investigative repertoire, reporting on gun violence and gun legislation, specifically in schools.
“What are the gun laws in schools? Are teachers allowed to carry guns? And looking at school shootings and mass shootings and the impact of that,” said Murphy, recalling her thought process during her News21 investigation. “Those stories had so much impact on the audience and it was such an important topic at the time, in 2014, and obviously still has shown to be such a huge part of our society – politically as well as in our everyday lives.”
While somewhat intimidated to report on such a large scale, with pressures greater than simply earning a good grade, Murphy couldn’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment for the work she and her team produced. A highlight, of course, was her byline on “NBC Nightly News.”
“It was just cool to see that I was capable of that kind of work and that us, as student journalists and young journalists, could really dive in and dig into these issues and really break ground on reporting issues that hadn’t ever been reported before – even at those national outlets,” Murphy said.
Since graduation, Murphy, a higher education reporter with the Raleigh News & Observer, has done incredible work at several prominent publications, including the Cincinnati Enquirer and other regional papers. Murphy’s landed gigs that are “unheard of in just five years,” Anderson said.
Despite the impressive experience and national bylines on her resume, Murphy was first, and always will be, an athlete. And maybe, despite the constant battle between soccer and school, that’s how it was meant to be.
“You know, she’s an athlete,” Anderson said. “I think, all the way through my course and going to the Times-News and reporting and then going to News21, she felt like the underdog. But she was going to go and get the victory.”
– Written by Julia Oakes ’22
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