For Washington Post Intern, an Unforgettable Experience

Samantha Hogan writes obituaries as a Dean's Intern at The Washington Post.

Samantha Hogan writes obituaries as a Dean’s Intern at The Washington Post.

Dean’s Intern Samantha Hogan at The Washington Post.

Her name was Viola. I will never forget it. On my first day at The Washington Post, I was assigned to write an obituary for a woman I had never met, could not speak to, and who after 91 years of life – vanished, as everyone does with death.

Obits have become a regular part of my week. I have several friends who find the idea of my work morbid, but it is actually some of the most benevolent writing I have ever done. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to get the last written piece of news about an individual correct.


On my first day, my editor promised me one thing: every obit that I would write would be read and cutout by at least one person. Not many other editors can promise that.

Over the weeks, I have peered into the lives of a former Howard professor, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Battle of the Bulge, a man who very publically resigned from Nixon’s National Security Council in response to the U.S.’s invasion of Cambodia, and a famous German confectionary.

I would have never imagined that my first national byline would be an obituary. Or, that the piece would end up on my grandparent’s kitchen table in a Connecticut newspaper and oversees in the UK the next day.

When I applied to be the SOC Dean intern for The Washington Post I imagined myself chasing down public officials or running to accidents to provide on-the-scene coverage, but that is not what working for The Washington Post is. During my time with the metro section, I have learned that reporting is a lot of small tasks that create a larger whole. I am more often a contributing tag at the end of an article than a byline, but without me the article would not be complete.

My experience has only just begun, but I can already see a positive growth in my writing. Thank you Viola.