Tyler Blint-Welsh’s co-ops, internships, and fellowships at newspapers across the country have prepared him for a career as a reporter. He’s written lengthy features on Maine’s public education system for the Bangor Daily News, profiled professional athletes for the Los Angeles Times, and investigated the decline of yellow cabs in New York City for The New York Times’ Student Journalism Institute.
But his next job, he says, will be his most plum assignment yet: Earlier this week, Blint-Welsh, AMD’19, was named a James Reston Reporting Fellow for The New York Times. From June to August, he’ll work for the paper’s metro desk, reporting stories and learning from some of the world’s best journalists. He hopes to cover the city’s homeless crisis, a topic that, he says, has been widely ignored by mainstream media.
“I’m looking forward to picking the brains of talented journalists and coming away with tons of new knowledge,” says Blint-Welsh, a Brooklyn, New York, native who grew up reading the Times on the city’s subway. “To find my byline in the paper will be really cool.”
Blint-Welsh, a fourth-year journalism major, is the second Northeastern student in as many years to receive a Reston Reporting Fellowship. The fellowship is named in honor of James Barrett Reston, a giant of journalism who worked for the Times from 1939 to 1989, serving as a columnist, Washington correspondent, and executive editor. During his highly decorated 50-year association with the paper, he won two Pulitzer Prizes, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the George Polk Memorial Award for national reporting, among many other honors. When he died in 1995, the Times called him “perhaps the most influential journalist of his generation.”
Blint-Welsh hopes to follow in Reston’s footsteps, often telling his friends, colleagues, and mentors that he would love to become the Times’ executive editor. But his primary goal as a working journalist in the here and now, he says, is to “meet new people, see new places, and document what I find.”
‘The DNA of a journalist’
Blint-Welsh is particularly interested in investigative journalism, with a focus on using his skills as a writer and reporter to shed light on the underrepresented and disenfranchised. One of his favorite reporters is Nikole Hannah-Jones, an African American journalist for the Times who is currently writing a book on school segregation. “There aren’t a lot of journalists of color on the national stage,” he says. “When someone who looks like me is doing well, I gravitate toward them and try to emulate their success.”
His interest in becoming an investigate reporter dates back to last spring, when he took a special topics course called “Washington Beat: The First 100 Days.” The instructor, Jonathan Kaufman, director of the School of Journalism, invited several accomplished journalists to class to discuss their coverage of the Trump administration. One reporter, from ProPublica, the nonprofit investigative journalism organization, inspired Blint-Welsh to apply for the investigative reporting co-op with the Bangor Daily News, a position he held from September to December. “For the first time I started to think about what it truly meant to be a journalist,” Blint-Welsh recalls. “Listening to him speak inspired me, and I saw the kind of impact stories could have on the public’s way of thinking.”
At the Bangor Daily News, Blint-Welsh produced two big enterprise stories on Maine’s public school system. One ran in November under the headline “What it’s like to survive high school only to fail college.” “I really focused on telling stories that impacted people who didn’t have a voice,” he says. “I wanted to tell those untold stories and inspire conversation.”
Kaufman praised Blint-Welsh, calling him a hard worker with ambitious goals and the instincts of an intrepid reporter. “Tyler has the DNA of a journalist—a fearless curiosity and a willingness to investigate and write about tough issues,” he says. Whether he’s covering race, mass incarceration, or another divisive topic, “he presents issues in ways that engage and respect others without making people feel like he is treating them unfairly.”
‘I’m really excited’
Blint-Welsh is constantly learning, adding new hard and soft skills to his reporter’s toolbox at each of his co-ops, internships, and fellowships.
As a content marketer for a fitness technology company in 2016, he focused on removing unnecessary adjectives from his copy and limiting his comma usage. “My editor felt like I was too wordy,” he recalls. “Now my writing is a lot more clear and to the point.” As a fellow at the Times’ Student Journalism Institute from May to June 2017, he familiarized himself with the paper’s editorial staff and even had the opportunity to talk with the publisher and executive editor. “Just being in the building made me realize that working for the Times was within reach,” he says. “A lot of the time, all you need is access to realize that something is possible.”
His first day as a Reston Reporting Fellow is approximately four months away. But his experiential learning opportunities up to this point have prepared him to hit the ground running. “All of my experiences have made me more aware of how important a platform like the Times is and what it means to contribute,” he says. “I’m really excited.”