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Sydney Boles

Sydney Boles (MSJ18)

Associate producer at WBUR
Katherine LaGrave

You can often find Sydney Boles (MSJ18) spending time outside. More often, you’ll find her at the place where journalism and nature intersect. In her career, she’s covered topics like the fossil fuel industry, conservancy in the Appalachian Mountains and the plight of the rural poor. 

Her interest in environmental and social justice reporting began much earlier. As a Medill student, she focused on investigative journalism, traveled around the country to learn from marginalized communities and took on challenging, in-depth stories. Medill’s diverse alumni networkincluding her fellow classmateshelped spark her ambition in the field. 

Tell us about your career path. How did you get where you are today? 

I came to Medill with a background in oral history and ethnography, but I wanted to tell stories that responded to, and maybe even shaped, our national conversation. The 2016 presidential election sparked my interest in storytelling that focuses on social and economic justice issues. 

What are your main responsibilities as a reporter at the Ohio Valley Resource? 

I cover Appalachia's massive shift from an extractive, fossil-fuel mono-economy to a new, more diverse economic model. I spend a lot of time out in the field, interacting with community members and building relationships. I also edit my own audio, produce audio scripts and web stories, and collaborate with reporters at NPR member stations across the Ohio Valley region. 

How has your Medill training helped you in your career so far? 

The training I received at Medill gave the confidence to tackle every challenge this job has thrown my way, from navigating tough ethical decisions to holding powerful people to account. I'm especially grateful for the skills I learned in the Social Justice and Investigative Reporting specialization, where I was encouraged to pursue ambitious investigative stories that could lead to real change. 

How has the Medill network helped you in your career? 

Medill alumni were always receptive when I reached out during my career search. It's amazing how many Medill alums you'll run into, and in my experience, they're all eager to share support young journalists coming up behind them. 

What is a Medill class or experience that sticks out in your mind and why? 

I'll never forget my trip to the American Southwest and the Navajo and Hopi nations to learn about reporting on indigenous communities. It's easy to overlook the importance of cultural competency in journalism, and the experience through Medill Explores was an amazing opportunity to learn how to do journalism in a community you're not familiar with. 

What advice do you have for someone considering Medill? 

Be ready to seize the opportunity and make the most of an incredible program. If there's something you don't understand, ask for help. If there's an opportunity to join a project, throw your hat in the ring. And focus on building relationships. The people you're sitting next to in your classes will be making their way through the industry beside you, too, and you'll be surprised how often you cross paths once you've gotten your degree.