Why We Give
Communication alumnus (’09) and longtime influential newspaper publisher, Wallie Funk, has an enthusiasm for working with the younger generation which is why he enjoys mentoring Olympia Legislative Reporting Internship students. This zeal developed during Funk’s time as a UW student where he learned the value of service and involvement.
Funk completed his credits at UW in 1948, but due to a clerical error, believed he was 15 credits short of graduating. After the department of communication inducted him into the Hall of Fame in 2008, he asked about his degree status and discovered that he had in fact met all degree requirements. He participated in the department’s graduation celebration in 2010.
“The only thing that upset me was when I saw my grade sheet. I was no Rhode Scholar,” Funk laughs. “I did have many things I excelled in and botany was not one of them. I was very active in the University…all my life I’ve been a cheerleader for something.”
Today, Funk cheers on journalism students spending ten weeks in Olympia during winter quarter through his mentorship and financial contributions. Additionally, an anonymous donor made a gift to the internship program in Funk’s honor.
Each student is assigned to cover Washington state legislative session for a daily newspaper, radio, or TV station. Alumni of the program have gone on to work for daily newspapers including the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Tacoma News-Tribune. Many have even won Pulitzer Prizes in journalism.
Throughout his career Funk formed relationships with many prominent political leaders and began to develop an interest in government. After such great professional experiences, Funk considers it a joy to help students launch their careers. “This is truly what it’s all about,” says Funk. “We are in a new age and the internship program in Olympia is a great opportunity.”
Mike Henderson, department of communications senior lecturer, has overseen the Olympia Legislature Reporting Internship for the past decade. “Wallie has been a great friend of our program for years,” says Henderson. “He is very generous making himself available and sharing his vast Northwest journalism experience with our students, past and present.”
Six interns recently concluded their ten week program last winter. Intern and senior journalism major Katie Schmidt became interested in political reporting because it gets to the essence of why journalism is meaningful in democracy. “It’s sort of hard to make the commitment to come live in Olympia for a whole quarter, but this quarter it finally worked out so I jumped on it.”
It is for this reason Funk gets excited – the ability to provide students with an opportunity. The department of communication provides students with equipment such as lap tops, Flip video cameras and audio recorders. Living expenses are usually covered by participating news organizations, but recent economic times have made support more difficult.
Participating editors, such as John Henrikson, of the News Tribune in Tacoma, enjoy being involved in the program and try to help interns find employment when they graduate. “The interns get a great experience, professional guidance and clips,” says Henrikson. “In many cases we simply wouldn’t be able to do the same stories with our existing staff.”
Funk also sees the value in this practice hiring many young UW graduates when he owned three community newspapers with his business partner and college friend John Webber. From 1950 to 1989 the duo owned the Anacortes American in Funk’s hometown as well as the Whidbey News-Times and the South Whidbey Record on Whidbey Island.
“I have a passionate interest in journalism and communicating through the written word,” say Funk. “I don’t have a computer or a cell phone but I share the common interest of communication. How you do it and I do it may be different but we have the same goal. My enthusiasm will go on as long as I live.”
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