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Eugene Sonn ’95, the audio news director for Philadelphia's WHYY, “got the bug for radio” the summer after freshman year, when he started an internship with Boston’s WBUR. It precipitated a small crisis: Had he made a mistake choosing Swarthmore, which had no journalism program?

His mentor reassured him that internships would teach what he needed to learn about journalism, and that he would be better served spending his college years learning about the world. Taking his advice, Sonn took honors in political science and comparative religion, and he found summer journalism internships, including one at NPR’s All Things Considered.

“I asked the woman at NPR why I was selected,” he remembers. “She told me she thought it was interesting that I studied religion. I host externs at WHYY and I always tell them that story, because these random things on your résumé either work in your favor or against you. I tell them to just make sure they’re qualified and knock on enough doors. Eventually, they will get in.”

At Swarthmore, Sonn started a weekly show on WSRN called The News Fix.

“It seems quaint now,” he laughs, “but this was before the internet became big and a typical Swarthmore student didn’t have time to keep up with national and international news, so we summed it up every week on our 30-minute show.”

Sonn says Swarthmore’s seminar model was excellent preparation for his career in journalism, especially now as a news director.

“It’s all about teamwork and collegiality: learning how to work together, testing ideas, presenting them, getting feedback, and refining ideas. This is what happens in a journalism environment, too.”

After graduation, he went to work for public radio station WRVO in Oswego, N.Y., and then moved to WHYY in Philadelphia. He covered New Jersey politics and the statehouse in Trenton for WHYY, in partnership with WBGO-FM in Newark, N.J., and in 2010 became audio news director.

“One of the strengths of live radio is the serendipity of it,” says Sonn. “Maybe it’s not a story you would seek out, but it comes on the radio and you listen to it. You can stumble upon something new, something surprising, instead of ending up in a silo where you only hear from people who think like you or who are interested in what you’re interested in.”