Witnessing History with NPR

James hard at work at NPR.

By Dean’s Intern James Doubek at NPR

I got to witness two major events in history in one week as part of my internship at NPR.

I went to the Supreme Court on Thursday. Holding a big microphone, I traveled through the crowd outside of supporters of the Affordable Care Act and same-sex marriage (and opponents, though they were few). I tried to gather the sound of the moment. The updates came on my phone. “A-C-A is here to stay!” People cheered, reporters flocked to get interviews with spokespeople.

Even more profound was the same location Friday morning. With Obamacare decided, people knew there was a good chance same-sex marriage could be next. The size of the crowd had grown at least 10 times from the day before. My mission was the same, to capture the moment. But as the clock counted down to 10 a.m., the sidewalk became so packed that I couldn’t move.

A couple minutes later, the running of the interns began. It’s the well-established tradition of television interns sprinting from the courthouse to the cameras outside. There was no announcement, but a cheer began to swell from the crowd. In a sign of the changing times, people didn’t look up for a signal from a leader. Instead, they all looked down at their phones, waiting for the crucial news update.

I recorded the chanting and the cheering. On the lookout for great sound, I heard singing. I rushed through the people to get up front to record the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington singing “We Shall Marry Free,” their rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”

It was exciting to witness one of the biggest civil rights decisions in decades. When we got back to NPR headquarters I was also excited, because a lot of what I recorded turned out great and several clips were used in NPR’s on-air coverage.

Helping cover events has been one of the best parts of my internship. Earlier this month I went to the Faith and Freedom conference, where Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz all spoke to religious and social conservatives. I interviewed several attendees and wrote profiles, which appeared on NPR’s website.

After the shooting in Charleston I wondered how exactly laws against hate crimes work; I interviewed a few experts on the subject and wrote an article which NPR also published. I like the freedom to be able to pitch stories and actually take time to pursue them.

NPR is the first place I’ve interned that I actually listen to and read on a regular basis. I’m hoping I will be able to return someday as an employee.