By Amrith Ramkumar
During the July 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Brookie Madison faced a difficult decision.
She had the opportunity to work with some of her Howard University journalism classmates and one of her professors to cover the four-day event, but only after completing her daily tasks as an intern at Cleveland 19 News.
Madison elected to embrace the opportunity, traveling to Quicken Loans Arena in the evenings to document the action-packed convention.
That experience is one of many that have inspired the 21-year old Madison, a 2017 graduate of Howard, to start a career in journalism. A native of Elyria, Ohio, Madison earned a bachelor’s degree in media, journalism and film with a broadcast journalism concentration, and will take part in Dow Jones News Fund’s business reporting internship program in the summer by producing content for Employee Benefit News in New York.
After taking a media production class in high school, Madison expanded her skills as a writer and multimedia journalist at Howard and now has high aspirations for her journalism career.
“I want to be better than Oprah [Winfrey], and that’s really hard because she’s amazing and everywhere,” Madison said. “I also want to be cool and fun like Ellen [DeGeneres] because I love Ellen. She’s super nice and generous. I want to be a mix between the two.”
Madison’s experiences at Elyria High School sparked her interest in journalism, and she took advantage of Howard’s various media opportunities to become a versatile reporter. The former media and marketing intern for the Peace Corps wrote for The Hilltop, Howard’s student newspaper, was a reporter for the student TV station Spotlight Network and had her work published by an online magazine and an online fact-checking website as well.
A member of the Howard University Association of Black Journalists, Madison hopes to combine her skills as a writer and broadcaster throughout her career. Reporting on community issues is one of Madison’s favorite beats—she said her favorite story to tell was an in-depth video explaining why Washington’s Ward 8 neighborhood has such high rates of breast cancer.
“I just don’t want to be in the studio all day reading from a teleprompter,” Madison said. “I like going where people are, talking to them and just building trust and relationships.”
Ingrid Sturgis, an associate professor in Howard’s department of media, journalism and film who worked with students at last year’s Republican National Convention, said Madison also stood out as a fact checker.
The first semester Sturgis offered a fact-checking course that involved producing content for the fact-checking website Truth Be Told, Madison investigated a common claim that the lifespan of $1 in the black community is about six hours. Even though she got pushback from financial planner Brooke Stephens, who first published the statistic in a 1996 book, Madison was relentless in her pursuit of the story, Sturgis said.
Madison eventually debunked a myth that had been circulating around the black community for 20 years.
“She doesn’t mind sticking to an assignment,” Sturgis said. “When the assignment was difficult or required more research or more work, she was very willing to do whatever it took to get the article or assignment done in a way that was going to be just what the reader wanted or be well done.”
Despite the financial challenges threatening journalism in many parts of the country, Madison said she is about 90 percent sure she wants a career in the field. Even though she does not know much yet about what her summer internship will entail and is anxious about moving to New York, Madison—who enjoys listening to music and writing poetry—is still excited about her next media opportunity.
The lack of trust in the media and combative relationship between President Donald Trump and the press also motivate her to excel as a reporter.
“I do feel more inclined to take it seriously. That’s an insult, to study journalism for four years, then be called fake news,” Madison said. “What was my degree for then? It’s annoying, but it does make me want to make sure I do my job right.”