To some, geography and journalism may seem like unrelated fields.
But to Andee Erickson, geography and journalism double major and UW-Eau Claire’s 19th Devroy Fellow, they are certainly related, and she’s determined to get everyone to understand.
“When Terence Samuels (the 2016 Devroy Forum speaker) was here, I just really kept plugging ‘Hey, I’m a journalism student, but I’m also a geography student’ … It’s so easy for geography to just get neglected because journalism has such a loud place in the world, but people are still trying to figure out the difference between geography and geology,” Erickson said. “So it’s just kind of like ‘Hey, listen to me.’”
As part of the Devroy Fellowship, Erickson, of Waseca, Minn., will follow in the footsteps of many Blugold journalism students and have the opportunity to intern at The Washington Post in January.
The fellowship memorializes UW-Eau Claire journalism alumna Ann Devroy, who was a White House correspondent for 15 years and known for her dogged, passionate, energetic, detail-oriented persona.
Because Devroy was thought of as a mentor to fellow journalists, a group of her closest friends and family decided offering young journalists the opportunity to follow her footsteps would be the most appropriate way to commemorate her death following her battle with uterine cancer at 49.
“I did not know Ann Devroy, but we all certainly know the legend of Ann Devroy and how dogged she was, how passionate and energetic she was, how much she paid attention to detail and wanted to get the story right,” Jan Larson, interim chair of the department of communication and journalism, said. “In my dealings with Andee, I have seen those same kinds of characteristics. She wants to pursue a story to its end; to find the truth. She wants to treat her sources fairly and operate ethically, and she has a lot of energy and takes what she does very seriously.”
As Erickson continues to grow as a journalist, she strives to embody more of Ann’s memory in her own work.
“The thing I love hearing the most about Ann Devroy is how not only is she just so thorough and so aggressive, but to also have this engaging friendliness,” Erickson said. “I would say it’s really hard to find that balance in being a human and just wanting to talk to people and be friendly, while also holding people accountable, being aggressive, getting the job done and getting the information when you absolutely need the facts and you need to stir the pot.”
With her double major, Erickson is bringing something new to the pool of successful Devroy Fellows, which is why Erickson stood out in the selection process, Larson said.
“I think she did a very good job in her application of showing the potential benefits of having that intersection of geography, which deals with people and places, and journalism, which focuses on stories that matter to people,” Larson said. “When I think of what journalists do at newspapers and online creating opportunities for their audiences to interact with information, her knowledge in terms of geography could really come to play.”
When asked how her two majors come together, Erickson said it all has to do with place.
“Before we were aware of anything else, I think we were aware of our location and where to find the food and where to find the shelter. I think of migration and everything and that is so fascinating to me,” Erickson said. “It’s enough that I think we need to keep this conversation of why place matters alive, and that is what geography is about.”
To do this, Erickson said she’s interested in using maps to complement a story, or words to complement a map.
“Being able to display things spatially, I think, attracts a lot of readers,” Erickson said.
But, Erickson said she realizes how sometimes journalism and geography clash in some respects.
“Part of geography is wanting to learn about different places, and as a journalist … that’s really hard because you really need to know the place you’re in and what stories are important,” Erickson said. “So it’s really hard to pop around and go new places.”
But she takes that all in stride, and hopes to bring her passion for writing and geography to a place like The Atlantic or National Geographic, where she can contribute longer form pieces revolving around the idea of place.
As Erickson looks forward to the three weeks she will spend at The Washington Post in January, she is most excited to potentially have the chance to utilize both her passions in her work, she said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing if I can notice a place for somebody,” Erickson said.
She also looks forward to seeing whether writing for a national news platform is something she’d be interested in, currently spending the summer as an intern at a smaller community newspaper, the Sanpete Messenger, in Sanpete, Utah.
“She will see what it’s like to work in a national newsroom. She will be able to network with journalists who are at the top of their field, and it will help her find her niche by having access to this in such an early stage in her career,” Larson said.
Erickson also looks forward to receiving direct criticism from editors and writers at The Post.
“I’m hoping to always get a critique session there, because to have people of that caliber critiquing your work – Wow, I can’t even imagine how that could change my writing,” Erickson said.
Photo Cutline: Andee Erickson with Washington Post Politics Editor Terence Samuel, who spoke at the 2016 Devroy Forum.