by Fiona Claire Kelliher
Most college students hate getting up early – but Kyle Swenson has a new concept of what “early” means. As an intern on Fox Business Network’s “Mornings with Maria” in New York this spring, Swenson arrived at daily pitch meetings by 3:30 a.m.
“It was surreal,” Swenson said. “By noon every day, I was at work and like, ‘Wait, I’m tired – I’ve been up since midnight.’”
He never quite got used to the hours. Still, the 23-year-old managed to land quirky, business-related pitches on air within his first few weeks at the network. (Think Chili’s new burger line). His crowning glory was a story about the addition of “embiggens” to the Oxford English dictionary: The word originated on Swenson’s favorite show “The Simpsons,” in a line he can quote verbatim.
Now a graduating senior at the University of Central Florida, Swenson will spend this summer at Orlando Business Journal through the Dow Jones News Fund. It will mark his second internship at the Journal. Swenson also serves as editor-in-chief of his college paper, Knight News.
The finance major has a knack for scraping beyond the surface in his reporting, said the Knight News’ adviser Sean Lavin.
“He is an excellent journalist, with a natural ability to cut through polished press releases and get to the truth,” Lavin said.
Swenson first began exploring journalism at UCF during his freshman year, when he saw a Knight News video on his Facebook feed and sought out the editors. “I can be on camera,” he recalled thinking. A week later, he was smack-dab in the middle of a twenty-four-hour dance marathon fundraiser for his first assignment.
The newspaper has a serious commitment to acting as the campus watchdog, Swenson said, which can be challenging: UCF is the largest university in the U.S. by enrollment.
Knight News has sued UCF several times under Florida’s Sunshine Law – including during Swenson’s time at the newspaper – for obscuring public records and holding secret discussions of the student government’s multi-million-dollar budget.
“We hold the school accountable,” Swenson said.
Although he was born in Chicago, Swenson grew up outside of Fort Lauderdale and considers himself a Florida guy through-and-through. It’s partially the weather – he hated the New York freeze – but also his fascination with Orlando’s thriving business community.
“Tourism, tourism, tourism,” Swenson said of the biggest topics he covered at Orlando Business Journal last summer. “We have Disney and Universal – and at the end of the day, that’s what really started Orlando.”
Swenson wrote nearly 50 articles during his time at the Journal, delving into both Orlando’s medical industry and the recent influx of startups that give the city a “vibrant” feel. For one of his more off-the-beaten-path assignments, Swenson visited a gym franchise to profile a fitness CEO who had made an appearance on CBS’s “Undercover Boss.”
“I loved it,” he said. “It was a great opportunity from the first day – I really liked the freedom they gave me.”
When he’s not reporting, Swenson and his girlfriend frequent Goodwill to pick up office chairs and other furniture, which they flip on the mobile marketplace app OfferUp.
Right now, Swenson’s not sure whether he’ll pursue print or television journalism. He plans to chase stories that hold people and institutions to the highest standards no matter the medium. And perhaps he won’t have to wake up quite so early.