Hometown: Cranston, RI
Major: Journalism; Environmental and Natural Resource Economics
Mark Scialla’s an aspiring foreign news correspondent – a pretty big idea for a high-school dropout who once supported himself shucking oysters. But a little time and some thoughtful soul-searching led Mark to enroll in URI’s College of Continuing Education in Providence and later transfer to our Kingston campus, where he’s double majoring in journalism and environmental and natural resource economics. His big idea was inspired here, after a summer internship with the international news network Al Jazeera in Washington, D.C.
Based in the tiny Persian Gulf emirate of Qatar, Al Jazeera has two divisions – an Arab version that reaches about 40 million viewers worldwide, and an English version launched in 2006 and gaining a strong presence in the American market. Mark interned in the English division, where he learned how to whip up a television news story and gained experience that should make him a standout in the job market.
His first assignment was covering a storm that devastated the Washington area. He went out in the field with a cameraman and talked to homeowners. He covered the National Aids Conference and interviewed civil rights activist Al Sharpton. He spoke to the head of a nonprofit group about sex trafficking in Washington, and he talked to an expert about the stockpiling of chemical weapons in Syria. He stood outside a Chick-fil-A restaurant interviewing people about the company president’s controversial comments against gay marriage. “I finally felt what it was like to be a professional journalist,’’ he says.
Mark says it was thrilling. At any given time, he would hear five languages from reporters in the newsroom — Portuguese, Italian, French, Arabic, and English. Even the interns were a diverse bunch, with some from Australia and France. He never appeared on air, but he made three demo tapes and learned how the news business works on the world stage.
“I felt like I was part of a larger global network. I was contributing to something that had global implications,’’ he says.
If all goes as planned, Mark will graduate in December and land a six-month internship with his old boss at Al Jazeera. It’s been a long journey from his tough days with gangs to a worldly newsroom in the nation’s capital. Just the kind of journey we like to support.