Lucia Maffei, 28, is currently a business desk intern with NPR. She was born in Italy where she studied journalism. She then moved to the U.S. to attend Medill School of Journalism. She graduated last year with a masters degree. She was the only intern of about 40 to join the newly created Conflicts Team, which covers President Donald Trump’s potential conflicts of interest.
Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into journalism.
Lucia: I am 28 years old and I was born in Pisa, Italy. Ever since high school I was really interested in journalism. I started collaborating with the school newspaper and then I went to college in my hometown. While I was pursuing on my bachelor’s degree I started collaborating with the local newspaper in my hometown. It’s called il Tirreno. Everything started from there. I really like breaking news and local news. I probably shared more local stories – probably 200 articles. Then I moved to Milan to pursue an education in journalism. I had several internships such as Repubblica Firenze and Radio24. I really fell in love with business reporting and technology reporting. I decided to take a new step in moving to the U.S. and start my degree at Medill. Luckily, I was admitted to the program at Medill Northwestern University for one year. I specialized there in business reporting.
Q: How did you come across the NPR internship?
Lucia: My classmates at Medill applied for the NPR internship for the fall. The internship started in the fall of 2016 and they told me about it. Luckily, they got in the fall and I got in for the winter program – the one I’m attending right now. I started on January 9. My internship is going to last until April 21.
Q: How did you land the position on the Conflicts Team?
Lucia: It was one of the first assignments that I got while I was here, working closely with the person who actually followed my application. She gave me the news that I got the internship on the business desk. When I arrived at NPR, she asked me if this was something I was interested in and, of course, I said, “yes.” To be completely honest, we have 40 interns and I was really lucky to be selected for this. There are other interns at NPR and they are doing really amazing things.
Q: What is your role on the team?
Lucia: My primary role is supporting other reporters. And it’s not just true for the conflicts team, but it’s true for the entire business desk team of reporters. My first job is really doing researching and reporting. The first step was determining the promises in terms of ethics that Trump made. I had to, for example, try to understand how the president gets his salary. Because the promise of “I’m only going to take $1” needed confirmation. So we were trying to understand how the president gets his salary, how it’s going to be paid, is he going to receive the full amount of salary, or can he give up the whole salary. It was one of the things for the project of the Trump Ethics Monitor. I found a document that led to an NPR scoop about withdrawing management (in Florida). It was a great day.
Q: What was your reaction when you found out you are part of the team?
Lucia: I was really, really happy to be offered this opportunity. It’s an incredible beat. There is something new every day. It’s a beat that requires a cross coverage between economic, politics, international affairs…it allows you to work with people with different experiences.
Q: Why do you think it’s important to create a team like this?
Lucia: It’s something really new in American history. This is a really brand new beat. It’s something that I think the reporters have to do really well. It’s important for democracy. It’s important for the freedom of speech. I think that journalists should answer questions about the conflicts of interest.
Q: Have you faced any challenges?
Lucia: If there are challenges, I have to solve them very quickly. But yes, of course, I had many challenges during the development of this. Right now, sometimes, it happens that while a reporter asks me to do something, and sometimes – not always – I’m not really up-to-date with what they are talking about. So, my job is to always be prepared.
Q: How do you think your past internships helped you get to where you are today?
Lucia: We can say this is my sixth internship. So, I had my previous career and internships both in the U.S. and Italy it really prepared me to be proactive. Having a business background really helped me as good question and focus on facts and numbers.
Q: What do you ultimately want to do in journalism?
Lucia: My dream position would be a senior business editor for a major publication. I would like to stay in business. That was my major and masters degree. I would love to be an editor for an online outlet or a radio outlet.
Q: What advice do you have for student journalists?
Lucia: It really depends on the length of the program they are in. If they are undegrad majors and they want to pursue journalism, I’d say that my best advice for them would be to try as many different platforms as you can – because you have time. See what you really like to do and what you are good at because it’s not always the same thing. However, if you’re in journalism school – in a really intense program like the one I did at Medill – I think that my best advice would be to try to start school with a really clear apth. You really have no time to try different things. Try to pursue a really clear specialization which could be business reporting, health reporting, arts & culture reporting or social justice reporting. I did my journalism program in Italy. It was a two-year program and during those two years, I tried everything. That’s when I discovered that I’m really good at radio and I’m not really good in television. I’m not the kind of person who can stand in front of a camera and be precise and be friendly in front of the camera. It’s not that I can’t do it, but it’s not my best asset. While at Medill, I already knew this.