PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs announces inaugural Gwen Ifill Legacy Fellowship

Washington, D.C. – PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (@reportinglabs) is excited to announce the selection of Sophie Sabin for the first Gwen Ifill Fellowship at a local PBS station. Sophie will spend the summer working at New Jersey’s public television network, NJTV.

As the SRL Gwen Ifill Fellow, Sabin will join NJTV’s weeknight news program, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams, and experience all aspects of producing the live news. Working alongside the news team pitching stories, Sabin will produce her own news story for the NJTV Digital Team, Student Reporting Labs and NewsHour.

“One of NJTV’s core missions– like that of public television – is to educate,” NJTV’s General Manager John Servidio said. “We’re delighted to work with PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs, engaging students and providing them with a hands-on environment at our studio and in the field where they can learn from our seasoned correspondents and production team.”

The summer fellowship was created in honor of award-winning anchor, reporter and author Gwen Ifill, the former PBS NewsHour co-anchor and managing editor and Washington Week moderator and managing editor, who died in November 2016 after complications from endometrial cancer.

Sabin started with Student Reporting Labs in 2014 as a 7th grader at Phillips Academy in Newark, New Jersey. As she produced her first SRL story, Sabin mentioned that Ifill was her role model and asked if she could possibly interview her via Skype. Ifill said yes, and then attended the SRL Student Academy opening reception, where the two met in person.

Sophie Sabin, left, Gwen Ifill and Kennedy Huff meet during PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs academy in August 2014. Photo by Seth Ram

After completing her first year in high school, Sabin wanted to give back to the middle school that had supported her. She wrote to Ifill, asking her to speak at her former middle school’s graduation ceremony. “Just as you inspired me with your words, I want my former classmates to have this same chance,” she wrote.

Sabin said that Ifill helped her reflect on her goals for the future — a process that she wanted to share with others.

“I wanted the students at my previous school to be able to get the same experience that I got,” she said. “To be able to get the same opportunity to ask themselves: ‘Where do I want to be in 20 years? What path do I want to set for myself? What kind of people do I want to imitate?’ Those are the questions I started asking myself.”

Ifill accepted the invitation and delivered the commencement speech at Phillip’s Academy.

“Sophie being the first Student Reporting Labs Gwen Ifill Fellow at a local PBS station is perfect,” Managing Editor Leah Clapman said. “Sophie is one of those young people you meet and immediately think ‘she is going places,’ and Gwen was a famous person who dazzled you with her kindness. She made everyone feel special and went out of her way to nurture the young journalists of SRL. That the two are connected this way completes the circle. ”

Sara Mosle, Sabin’s teacher at Philip’s Academy, said it was inspiring to see her student grow through her experience with Student Reporting Labs and her connection with Ifill. “It’s the very reason you go into teaching,” she said.

Mosle wrote about the impact Gwen had on Sabin and other girls at Philips Academy for The New York Times.

About Student Reporting Labs

Student Reporting Labs provides middle and high schools with a unique video journalism curriculum, teacher professional development, mentorship and relationships with local public media stations to produce original stories that explore how critical national issues impact communities around the country. Visit PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram. Major support is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health Science Education Partnership Award.

About NJTV

NJTV, New Jersey’s public television network, brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to all 21 counties in New Jersey and its tri-state neighbors. NJTV presents acclaimed PBS series and children’s programs with diverse local programs, including the network’s flagship news broadcast, NJTV News with Mary Alice Williams. Headquartered at the Agnes Varis NJTV Studio in Newark with additional studios at the Trenton State House and New Jersey City University as well as university content bureaus across the state, strives to engage the community and increase public awareness of critical local issues.

About PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour is seen by over four million weekly viewers and is also available online, via public radio in select markets, and via podcast. PBS NewsHour is a production of NewsHour Productions LLC, a wholly-owned nonprofit subsidiary of WETA Washington, D.C., in association with WNET in New York. More information on PBS NewsHour is available at pbs.org/newshour. On social media, visit NewsHour on Facebook or follow @NewsHour on Twitter.