CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WRBL) – Despite graduation cancellations due to COVID-19, Madeline Coleman, a recent UNC-Chapel Hill grad, adapted and evolved to the post-coronavirus news landscape while interning at Sports Illustrated.

During the internship, Coleman fact-checked and edited articles for Sports Illustrated and SI Kids magazines. She also pitched ideas and wrote original stories. Coleman said she enjoyed writing about former UNC gymnastics coach Derek Galvin in honor of his retirement and plans to have five different NASCAR stories written within the week.

In mid-march, UNC-CH shifted to virtual learning in an effort to uphold social distancing guidelines and protect students. Along with challenges from group work and new teaching styles, Coleman said it was difficult for the graduating seniors to find closure with their time at UNC as their final semester was cut short.

“I didn’t get to say goodbye to my friends nor did I have graduation. All of a sudden, life changed. Another difficult part of that time period, before my Sports Illustrated internship started, was watching my friends lose their jobs and internships. It was, and still is, a time of uncertainty about the future. Sports Illustrated had a huge round of layoffs, and for a period of time, I was worried about whether I still had my internship or not,” Coleman said. 

The opportunity to work at Sports Illustrated fell into Coleman’s lap. After applying to the Association for Women in Sports Media internship and being a finalist, Coleman received an email from Larry Mondi, the deputy chief of reporters at Sports Illustrated, stating somebody had sent in her portfolio and that they wanted to hire her for a summer 2020 internship.

Although the summer internship was virtual, Coleman said that Sports Illustrated did everything they could to ensure that the interns learned as much as they would have in an in-person setting. This included scheduled video calls, speaking to professional reporters, and working on the breaking news desk.

“Even though there is a pandemic going on, it doesn’t mean that the world can just stop. Journalists, especially on the local level, are still providing necessary news that is incredibly valuable to the public for safety reasons,” Coleman said. “Reporters and journalists are as important now as they ever have been, and their work is so valuable during a time when you don’t know what to believe.” 

COVID-19 changed the news industry for Coleman as the lack of sporting events have shifted the news coverage. Interviews are conducted over the phone or through Zoom instead of face-to-face. Coleman said that coronavirus made her look at sports trends at a national level and write stories she otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to write.

“I love being a journalist so much because of the people I get to meet, talk to and write about. One of the most important things to me is being a voice for the voiceless, and as a journalist, I have the unique opportunity to give people a platform to share their thoughts and stories on different matters. That is what motivates me – knowing I’m making a difference in some way and helping others tell their stories,” Coleman said.