In His Own Words: Donny Morrison’s journey from LCC to the Emerald to a WSJ internship

Donny MorrisonAfter barely graduating high school while serving time in juvenile jail, it was hard to imagine my life going anywhere but down. 

I grew up around alcohol and substance abuse. My family history is marred with arrests, DUI’s and domestic disturbances. In high school, I took a similar route and ended up earning my diploma in a youth facility, at the De Paul treatment center in Portland, Oregon. 

The next five years followed a familiar trend. I was either homeless or returning to jail for petty drug offenses. In 2014, I entered a recovery program and have been sober ever since. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. It’s in jail that I discovered my affinity for the written word. Reading other people’s stories helped free me from my own tiny cell. When I got out, I knew that I wanted to tell stories that could reach people like me. 

And that’s exactly what I’ve done. I look back on a college career that spans four years of writing and editing for multiple student publications, as well as internship experience on two continents. I’ve paid for my education by working full time as a server and wine educator at King Estate Winery, while also doing unpaid news internships. 

For the past two years, I’ve remained heavily involved in the University of Oregon’s student newspaper, the Daily Emerald. This last year I had the honor of being managing editor, in charge of all content both digital and print. The Daily Emerald gave me a sense of community in a school where I never had one. Being a transfer student from Lane Community College only went to further the divide I felt between my classmates at UO. But the Emerald gave me a home base; it gave me lifelong friends and fostered the kind of environment where everyone is learning from each other all the time. It taught me how to be a leader. 

While at the Emerald, I wrote about the disproportionate amount of hate crimes happening in Eugene compared to the much larger city of Portland. I got to dig into the murky past of a local music venue taking on new ownership. I broke a story about a homegrown white nationalist attempting to sneak back into the local music scene after being outed as a racist and a bigot. These are just a few of the stories that helped shape my education as a student journalist—and they all happened at the Emerald. 

I’ve gone on to write longer features for the Eugene Weekly. In March, my story “Begin Modeling,” became the most viewed story in the history of the Eugene Weekly’s website. It told the story of a UO freshman who had been coerced and deceived into having sex on camera. In my reporting, it was revealed that my subject had been one of thousands of girls who had been tricked into sex trafficking through the Girls Do Porn website. The story went viral on Twitter and Facebook. I’m also focusing my time on breaking news and local business reporting. 

I was recently awarded an internship at the LA bureau of the Wall Street Journal. It’s what I’ve been working towards for the past six years and I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to tell stories to a wider audience. I’m always looking to increase my network of journalists and writers, so please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

Contact

Joan Aschim

Phone

(541) 463-5591