International Press Institute internship provides research experience, collaboration

By Haley Nelson, IU School of Journalism
A research collaboration with center director Anthony Fargo turned into an international internship opportunity for Indiana University School of Journalism doctoral student A.Jay Wagner, who spent last summer working at the International Press Institute in Vienna, Austria.
And both the research and partnership at the institute formed the basis for the kind of work the School of Journalism’s new Center for International Media Law and Policy Studies hopes to provide, said Fargo, who also is associate professor at the school.
“The center is really just starting out,” he said. “Frankly, the fact that we’re getting as much work to do as we are already is amazing.”
The center launched in August, but Fargo’s and Wagner’s research and the eventual internship for Wagner were the types of collaborations Fargo had in mind when he was helping plan the center’s creation. A media law and policy scholar, Fargo’s research has long centered on First Amendment, open access and journalists’ privilege issues.
For Wagner, already interested in media law, a collaboration with Fargo was a natural. The two compiled the paper, “Criminal Libel in the United States,” which was presented at the International Press Institute’s  World Congress in Trinidad and Tobago in June. Wagner was offered a summer internship at the world’s oldest media rights institution.
“It was a pretty easy decision,” Wagner said. “They asked if I wanted to go live in Vienna for the summer and work at a media rights organization – two things that were pretty appealing options. ”
Once in Vienna, Wagner spent a majority of his summer using journalism to abolish criminal libel in the Caribbean with IPI.
“I wrote op-eds that were published in Caribbean newspapers. I did some correspondence with government figures and media figures,” Wagner said. “I actually did some consulting on rewriting some of the criminal libel law down there.”
Fargo and Wagner are continuing this research now, and hope to maintain a connection with the international media rights group.
Wagner contributed to the institute’s media rights website, which is updated multiple times a day with the latest international media rights infractions. Some of his other stories ran in publications around the world.
Ideally, the center will maintain a research connection with the institute and continue to send interns to Vienna every summer, Fargo said.
The internship application process for next summer has begun and requires applicants to compile five writing samples, write a short essay and submit a resume. The deadline for applying is Oct. 31. Applicants can learn more at the IPI website.
“We’ll narrow the list to a few, then send these applicants to IPI and have them pick what people they want to work for them,” said Fargo. “We’ll encourage students to apply for a couple of scholarship opportunities for students who are working abroad.”
Fargo also hopes to establish reliable funding for these types of internships, which he deems “really great opportunities.”
Wagner agrees on all counts.
“They work internationally and they’re very effective,” he said of IPI. “It was quite an experience. Everybody is really passionate about what they’re doing.”
The chance to live in the center of Vienna, collaborate with international journalists, and advocate for the basic right to free speech was invaluable, Wagner said.
“We write about it here in school and in academia, but they’re advocating and actually making change,” he said. “It’s an internship where you get involved, where they’ll let you take on as much as you can do.”
In the meantime, Fargo and Wagner are continuing to work with IPI on its criminal libel project. They are assessing existing and proposed laws in two Caribbean countries, and their reports will become part of IPI’s proposal to amend or abolish criminal libel statutes in those nations.
“To go to IPI kind of opens your mind to a lot of what’s going on in international media law,” Wagner said. “I think that’s what the value of the experience is.”