Q&A with Rachael Bolek, MEDIA ’19

Rachael Bolek found her home on the Daily Illini copy desk. Next stop: an internship at The Washington Post.
Interviewed by Kim Schmidt
Photograph by Abigail Bobrow

How did you decide to come to Illinois and study journalism?

If I’m being honest, I came to the University of Illinois after deciding it was the most affordable option for me. Looking back, I’m incredibly happy I did, as I’ve had some of the most incredible opportunities because I chose to come here. I don’t think I would’ve had those opportunities otherwise.

I chose journalism after participating in speech team in high school. While I was on the team, I competed in an event called “Radio Speaking,” and it was essentially delivering a newscast. I loved editing those stories and delivering them every week, and I discovered I could do something related to that if I majored in journalism.

Jean McDonald, a journalism professor here at the University, has been a great mentor to me. She helped prepare me for the Dow Jones editing test, which is how I got an internship at The New York Times, and she was always happy to assist me (and many other students) with anything I needed during internship application season.

Can you tell me a bit about what it was like to intern at The New York Times? How did you become interested in journalism?

Interning at The New York Times was such an amazing experience. I was immediately integrated into the newsroom, and I got to do things that other full-time editors were doing; I would edit the stories, write headlines, compose photo captions and create social media posts, and after I was done, I got to publish stories directly to The New York Times website. It was unbelievable, and I learned so much during my ten weeks there.

I became interested in journalism because of speech team, but I specifically became interested in copy editing during my time at the Daily Illini. I joined the copy desk my freshman year. I am now managing editor for online, where I oversee social media, web development, brand managing, and the copy desk. I love editing stories, checking for grammar and fact-checking, which I discovered through the Daily Illini. There’s so much that goes into one piece of writing, and the final editing process is by far my favorite.

Rachael stands in front of The New York Times building last summer where she was an intern.

How has being a scholarship recipient shaped your undergraduate experience?

Being a scholarship recipient has greatly shaped my undergraduate experience. I never would have been able to attend the University of Illinois had it not been for the scholarships I’ve been lucky enough to receive over the years. Receiving these scholarships has given my family and me peace of mind during my undergraduate education, and it has significantly lessened the financial burden of my student loans. If it weren’t for the scholarships I’ve received, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

After graduation, I’ll be a multiplatform editing intern at The Washington Post for ten weeks, where I’ll do similar tasks to those I did at The New York Times. After that, I hope to be a full-time multiplatform editor/copy editor at a newspaper.