Davone Morales Awarded White House Correspondents’ Association Scholarship

The SMPA senior will attend this year’s WHCA dinner alongside some of the country’s most prominent journalists.

Davone Morales
April 24, 2018

By Kristen Mitchell (This article originally appeared in GW Today)

Growing up in northeast Los Angeles, senior Davone Morales wasn’t allowed to play outside after school. He spent most afternoons with his maternal grandparents, who lived in the Glassell Park neighborhood—a hotbed for gang activity at the time. Since it wasn’t safe for him to be outside, he passed the time watching Oprah and the local news instead.

As young as seven, Mr. Morales was captivated by the engaging storytelling and intimate setting of local news and dreamed of becoming a broadcaster himself. He got to see how journalism works firsthand when a Los Angeles Times reporter came knocking on the door a few years later.

Mr. Morales hid in the dining room, eavesdropping as his grandfather spoke candidly to the reporter about the deep roots of violence in the neighborhood, a subject he rarely discussed. Mr. Morales was fascinated by the reporter’s breath of knowledge on local history and by seeing how much work goes into enterprise journalism.

Mr. Morales knew then he wanted to be a journalist and tell important community stories.

As a student in the School of Media and Public Affairs, an intern for NBC’s “Meet the Press” and C-SPAN, and general manager and executive producer of George Washington University’s student-run GWeek, Mr. Morales has been able to do just that. He is being honored for his commitment to journalism as the 2018 recipient of the George Washington University-White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) scholarship.

The award is in its fourth year and grants one senior in SMPA an opportunity to attend the annual WHCA Dinner and network with some of the country’s most accomplished journalists. The winner also receives a $2,500 scholarship to be applied to their fourth year.

Mr. Morales said being nominated for the scholarship was a “humbling honor” he was not expecting. He is excited to meet other student journalists, talk to professionals he admires and observe how the journalists and politicians interact in person, he said.

“I’m looking forward to meeting journalists and asking them questions about how they feel like it’s been different the last few years covering politics in particular,” Mr. Morales said. “I feel like it’s been a challenge everyone has been learning together.”

Mr. Morales learned he would receive the scholarship when he touched down after a flight to Los Angeles for spring break. He was nominated by Frank Sesno, director of SMPA, and faculty.

“Davone is a talented broadcast journalist and a leader who takes the time to help classmates and members of GW-TV develop their multimedia skill sets,” Mr. Sesno said. “He is a fantastic ambassador of the school and for future journalists.”

At a time when there is rife distrust in the media, it’s more important than ever that news organizations are dedicated to getting the facts right, Mr. Morales said. Journalists can earn trust in the communities they serve by better explaining the editorial process and ensuring media organizations reflect the diversity of the people they cover.

“It’s important for minorities and people of color to join journalism because if we’re not in the room we don’t know what stories are being missed,” he said. “Being able to be in the room and say, ‘Hey, this story is happening in my community, and this is affecting people who look like me, and we haven’t talked about it yet,’ I think that’s very important.”

Mr. Morales wants to work in broadcast as an on-camera reporter or a producer behind the scenes. He hopes to be a general assignment reporter so he can explore different types of stories throughout the community and shine a light on subjects that would otherwise be ignored.

In 2016, Mr. Morales participated in NewsroomU, a weekend workshop that brought together student journalists around the country to report on issues affecting the Washington, D.C., area millennials. During the workshop, he reported the poor conditions on Native American reservations after speaking to a Native American family visiting the National Mall. He hopes to be able to explore this topic more in the future.

As part of his coursework last semester, Mr. Morales also filmed a report about the Anacostia Arts Center to highlight a part of Washington, D.C., that isn’t talked about by many GW students.

“Being able to tell stories from different backgrounds, for me that’s very fulfilling and engaging,” he said. “I’m so curious about a lot of things, it’s hard to pigeonhole me into one beat.”

Since January, Mr. Morales has been working as an intern on “Meet the Press,” where he transcribes interviews, conducts research and assists with the show’s social media strategy. Recently he saw firsthand how journalists have to act quickly to respond to big news events.

Earlier this month when President Donald Trump launched strikes against Syria less than two days before the show’s Sunday morning airing, the team of producers and reporters worked all weekend to tailor the show for the changing newscycle.

“It was interesting to be in the room while that decision was being made and being able to find someone within less than 24 hours before it aired to be in studio and talk about it,” he said.