J-School Student to Have Bird's-Eye View of Election as Intern
UA journalism major Christianna Silva will do data mining and polling analysis along with reporting and writing for Nate Silver's national website, FiveThirtyEight.

By Mike Chesnick, UA School of Journalism
Sept. 7, 2016

Christianna Silva will be working in the trenches during the 2016 presidential election.

The University of Arizona School of Journalism senior landed a prestigious political data internship with ESPN's FiveThirtyEight, a national website run by editor-in-chief Nate Silver that focuses on opinion poll analysis, politics, economics and sports blogging.

Beginning Sept. 12 for the New York City internship, Silva will be doing data mining, entry and analysis in addition to reporting and writing for 10 weeks.

"I couldn't imagine a better time to work with some of the best political journalists in the industry," Silva said. "I'm excited to be surrounded by political fanatics who are way smarter than me. I'm pumped to learn from the best during one of the most political times."

FiveThirtyEight, founded by Silver in 2008 as a polling aggregation website and blog, takes its name from the 538 electors in the U.S. Electoral College. It became a licensed feature of The New York Times in 2010 before ESPN bought the site in 2013.

Silva got a nice introduction to politics and reporting while taking the "Inside the Beltway: Press, Politics and Policymakers in Washington, D.C." course taught by Susan Knight, an associate professor of practice in the School of Journalism. Silva studied polling and traveled with classmates and Knight to Washington, D.C., in the spring to visit media outlets, UA journalism alumni, the White House and Congress.

"I went into the application process with a lot of knowledge about polling, and I definitely think that helped me," said Silva, who was named the school's top junior at the Just Desserts student awards in May. "Also, the FiveThirtyEight editors were looking for people who could code, so (journalism) professor Michael McKisson's app-building class was very helpful."

Knight's class, in its first run, focused on polling, social media metrics and D.C. politics.

"Christianna is a wonderful combination of passion for journalism, fearlessness for new technology and an enthusiasm level that is off the charts," Knight said. "Following up with this internship with Nate Silver is a tremendous opportunity to carry that learning forward on a practical level."

McKisson, an associate professor of practice in the School of Journalism, said Silva gained a lot of knowledge in programming for the web and programming mobile apps after taking his class co-taught by the Arizona Daily Star's Rob Wisner.

"It’s probably one of the coolest internships one of our students has ever gotten," McKisson said. "And it's an incredible moment to be at FiveThirtyEight, with this historic election, and she's going to be in the thick of it. I don’t think it could have happened to a better and more talented young journalist."

Silva's brother sent her a link to the paid internship, and the school's student listserv also posted it. Fewer than two dozen applicants made it to the phone-interview stage. Silva said she larned within two hours of her interview that she had received the internship. 

Silva said she is excited to work in New York City again after having an internship there last summer with a women's health nonprofit, MergerWatch: Raising Women's Voices for the Healthcare We Need. She also plans to meet up again with UA alumna Mia Moran, a former Arizona Daily Wildcat staffer who is managing editor for Bottle Magazine.

"This honestly feels like it can't be real," Silva said. "I'm still in shock. I know the experience will be invaluable and I can't wait to dig in. FiveThirtyEight is my dream workplace."


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Mike Chesnick

UA School of Journalism