Meet Ryan Hill: From English Major to Reporter

Nov 21, 2014

University of Virginia Ryan Hill got something in the mail from his mother this fall that he would not have expected earlier this year: a copy of World Magazine with an article inside it he had written.

Ryan Hill spent this past summer at the World Journalism Institute.

Even though he had little journalism experience, Hill began the program in Asheville with a lot of confidence.

“Because I am an English major all I have ever done in college is write English papers,” he said. “But WJI whipped my tail right off the bat. I learned fast how all the skills of being a good journalist are different from being a good writer of college papers.”

Hill compared going from term papers to news writing to being placed on a strict diet: “WJI really toned down and shaped up my writing.”

Hill used to agonize over every single word he put down on paper. That created a lot of stress almost every time he sat down to write. But WJI challenged Hill to produce stories at a faster pace. Not having time to stress out over every word, he said, made writing feel more liberating.

By WJI’s second week Hill noticed his writing becoming more concise and clear. Writing about a new topic almost every day, as opposed to getting consumed on one academic piece for weeks also helped Hill rediscover what made him love writing in the first place.

Hill was “blown away” and “surprised” by how much one-on-one time he got with the WJI editors. That consistent time with WJI’s team of professional writers,  article after article, helped Hill polish his pieces to the point where several of them got published. 

“I did not realize how much trust they would put in us, actually allowing us to put content on the web and even World Magazine,” Hill said.

WJI challenged Hill to become more courageous. Hill said he has always been a person who didn’t like to address strangers. In such situations, “my self-preservation streak kicks in.” But the WJI assignments pushed Hill out onto the streets of Asheville and Washington: sometimes equipped with a video camera, sometimes with a still camera, sometimes with a radio microphone and always with a reporter’s notebook and pen. Today he believes the experience helped him get more accustomed to rejection and develop new tactics for not being deterred the first time somebody tells him no.

“In school we always sit around and talk about things. It was a great shift to go out and do things this summer.”

Hill said the reporting experience in the nation’s capital “really rocked my world.” Being thrust into a new environment on Capitol Hill challenged him to tackle unfamiliar subjects on a daily basis.

“I am the kind of person who doesn’t want to do anything until I can do it perfectly,” he said. “Washington crushed that instinct in me. It helped me become willing to dive into something before I can know it completely and to endure a bit of failure and incompetence and push through it. I will always be thankful for that challenge.”

Hill lists spending a day at a homeless shelter for a news feature and covering the saga of a Chinese pastor’s family seeking refuge in the U.S. as two of his favorite stories.

Today, nearly six months after finishing his WJI internship, Hill is more interested in news than he had been before journeying to the Asheville mountains last May. When he reads newspapers now he is more media savvy about what is written and how it is written. Before WJI, Hill was afraid to keep with the news. But now he likes having a greater sense of what is going on in the world around him.

For those, like Hill, who are thinking about going to WJI even though they are not journalism majors, Hill said don’t be afraid to come and learn some new skills.

“I went out on a limb,” Hill said, “but going in blind because I didn’t have a lot of journalism classes under my belt didn’t hurt me.”

To read some of the more than 20 stories Hill wrote for World News Group click here:

Ryan Hill World Stories 

And to learn more about joining the WJI team for 2015 keep exploring this website and click on the “apply now” button at the top of each web page. 

For more information:

World Journalism Institute