We are thrilled to introduce you to Mina Denny, Indy Maven’s summer 2022 editorial intern. Mina will be a junior at Indiana University’s Media School in the fall, and she’s pursuing a B.A. in journalism with a sports journalism focus, and a minor in communication and public advocacy.
A woman of many talents, Mina has worked as an IU women’s basketball and IU women’s volleyball beat reporter, been a director of podcast productions and operations, and has created her own podcast about the convergence between social justice issues and sport called “Clear The Air.” She will be covering the IU football team in the fall as a feature/enterprise writer for her internship with The Hoosier Network, and she will also be interning with the Arnolt Center for Investigative Journalism in the fall.
Mina describes herself as “a passionate journalist who believes in uncovering universal truths through rhetoric and storytelling.”
Q. We are so excited that you’re Indy Maven’s summer 2022 intern! Can you tell us more about yourself and why you chose to join the Indy Maven team?
I’m even more excited to join such a wonderful and powerful team of women! I am going into my junior year of college in the fall at IU Bloomington and this past school year gave me so many opportunities to try out every aspect of media and journalism. I was able to try, succeed (and fail) at multiple jobs within the industry, and eventually figured out my niches.
Writing has always been my passion, but that really came to fruition this past school year when I covered multiple sports teams and began to write feature/enterprise pieces about the athletes, pieces which became published. I’ve never been the best talker — my thoughts and ideas have always been clearer and more concise through text — so I knew I needed to get an internship this summer where I would be able to get constant writing reps.
I stumbled upon the application for Indy Maven and even before applying, something in my gut was telling me that this was going to be the one — for multiple reasons. I am a feminist and I’m all about empowering women. I pride myself on being an advocate for inclusion, so really, writing for Indy Maven seemed like the perfect fit for me. Not only do I get to network and connect with super cool women every day in the city that I grew up in, but I am lucky enough that these women are willing to share their stories with me and trust me enough to create something special from the knowledge they share. Also, my editor Stephanie Groves welcomed me in with warm arms and love from day one; the people around me have a big influence on where I choose to work, and Steph made sure I knew from the start that I would be supported and that Indy Maven was a safe place for me.
Q. Both of your parents are writers too, right? How have they influenced or inspired you as a journalist? What’s the best advice you think they’ve given you so far?
Yes, they are. Both of my parents graduated with English degrees. Ever since I was little, I kind of always knew that I had the “writing gene” passed down from them because one, I never dreaded writing. I was the kid who loved writing essays in school and would write someone’s essay for them if they asked. I asked to edit my friends’ papers because I truly enjoyed doing so. Secondly, I just remember writing being my first love, my first passion — the one thing that made me feel confident and the first skill I possessed where I thought “Hey, I’m actually kind of good at this … this can take me somewhere.”
While I may not have realized or called it a passion at the time, it’s always something I looked forward to, and always something I’ve come back to. The process of creating an outline, the research involved, coming up with questions and asking them even though they may be risky inquiries, all the pieces of the story coming together like the perfect puzzle, the final edits, the publishing … I relish the entire process.
My father is a very skilled writer and he’s definitely had a huge impact on me and helped me the most when I was in high school. I’ve always appreciated how blunt he’s been with me regarding my writing, because that’s how I am, and to me, that’s the only way I can get better. I don’t like sugarcoating.
The best piece of advice that my mother has given me regarding writing is to write from my heart … which is something I carry with me every time I go into a story or pitch an idea. My parents have influenced me as a journalist because they showed me that I can be the kind of writer who can write in any style — business, journalistic, persuasive, creative, personal, expository — the list goes on. But, that’s what I strive to do. I never want to be pigeonholed to one style; I want to be able to write anything in any form and I know that it’s possible.
Q. If you could write a story about any woman in Indiana, who would it be, and why?
I’d love to write a story about Kristine Bunch, although I’m sure it’s already been done. Kristine was wrongly convicted and incarcerated for the murder of her 3-year-old son and was locked up for 17 years.
I would want to know every single detail, from the moment her son passed to the moment where she was in cuffs, to the moment the judge sentenced her, to the brutal 17 years behind bars, to every thought that went through her head. It would be my honor to listen to Kristine’s story and make it flourish through text. The writing I enjoy doing the most is definitely the type where I can make a non-fiction story as creative as possible — a story that involves A LOT of research and a lot of time. I want readers to listen, to be able to truly feel the words on the page. I’m a very empathetic person. I feel other’s feelings very deeply, that’s why stories of tragedy or trauma intrigue me because oftentimes, I’m able to feel that person’s pain.
Everyone has a story to tell, they just need someone to listen.
Q. What is your favorite piece that you’ve written so far in your journalistic career, and why?
My favorite piece that I’ve written so far in my journalistic career is the feature story I wrote about IU basketball player Kiandra Browne. I covered the women’s basketball team as a beat reporter for my yearlong internship with The Hoosier Network this past school year, and even before starting, I knew I needed to do a piece on Kiandra. She intrigued me because she’s the only one on the team, and only NCAA female basketball player for that matter, that wears a hijab on the court.
I was covering the IU/Kentucky game in early November, and at one point during the game, Kiandra’s hijab fell off. But what caught my eye was when all of Kiandra’s teammates on the floor stopped what they were doing mid-game to rush to her side and protect her from the crowd until she put her hijab back on. So, I felt lucky to even have witnessed that because what happened between those women in that moment is what a true team is all about. The love and respect they have for Kiandra was obviously evident, and I needed to ask her about that moment — I was not going to let any other journalist take that story from me. So, that scene that I saw really drove the story.
Before interviewing her, I assumed (which I shouldn’t have) that she was of Islamic heritage, but actually, she corrected me and let me know that she converted from Christianity to Islam in the past year. That was something I wasn’t expecting until I talked to her and she told me her story. Another reason why I love this story so much is because often, student athletes won’t be very expressive or willing to open up, but Kiandra was just the opposite. She was very real and detailed with me and didn’t reject my maybe too personal questions. We ended up having over an hour-long conversation, so it was honestly a very special experience for me and Kiandra really inspired me as we both advocate for similar issues. She’s a super kind, passionate and amazing woman.
That was the first piece I’d ever written that was super close to my heart because I have huge interests in the convergence between sport and social justice and/or sport and DEI, so it kind of gave me a glimpse into what my desired future (in writing) could look like. As a writer, at least for me, I don’t necessarily think that what I’m writing is amazing or impactful. That could just be me being hard on myself or me just doing my thing — writing — and not thinking much of it because it comes naturally to me. But, that story got tweeted out by the NCAA which was really awesome and unexpected. All of my co-workers at The Hoosier Network gave me a lot of praise for that story and a bunch of journalists who have gone on to have successful careers reached out to me too, so, it all felt super amazing and just reaffirmed that people do see me and that my writing is good — that it matters. All of the support truly meant the world to me.
Q. What inspires you creatively?
Hmm. Many things. The people around me, the people I see in the media, nature, music, history, cultures, my second mom Kristin Davis, professors I’ve had: Zoë Henry, Xan Smith, Dana Anderson, and Kelley French have all had huge impacts on me, different relationships I’ve had throughout my life and coming to understand those relationships, coming to understand myself, my family, things I’ve personally gone through and overcame, and the state of this country.
I find that what I care about transfers over to what I write about. I am a female minority who grew up in a biracial family in a very homogenous town, so that’s where a lot of my passion and interest for DEI, women, equity, and inclusion comes from. I’ve always thought outside of the box, and maybe that’s because growing up, I always felt like I was sort of outside of the box. I struggled with my identity and confidence for a very, very long time.
I feel things very deeply, so there were a lot of things (and people) that I had to leave and overcome to be able to become the woman I was always designed to be. I think just having the confidence and self-awareness that I have today helps with my creative process because for a very long time I had thoughts of “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t ask these questions,” or “Maybe this is too risky to write about or it’s too much,” or “You shouldn’t do that or you can’t do that” … thoughts stemming from insecurity and unsureness about myself. Like … no. My thoughts and questions matter and I shouldn’t be afraid to ask that question or reach out to that person or feel that feeling or think that thought if I feel that it matters.
I also have an extremely amazing support system right now, the best I’ve ever had in my life. They inspire me every single day and give me confidence as well. Who you surround yourself with and the things you surround yourself with are extremely important; it’s changed my life.
Q. What are your professional goals for the next 5 years? 10 years?
Oh my gosh I don’t even know where to begin. I want to do everything. As I said previously, my biggest fear going into the industry is being pigeonholed, so that’s why right now in college I’m trying everything.
One of my dreams is to work for an online publication like “The Athletic,” “The Ringer,” or “Sports Illustrated” and cover college basketball and the NBA. I also dream of being a culture and sports reporter or an investigative sports journalist for a publication because like I said, I’m interested in the ways in which controversy/social justice issues intertwine with athletes and the sports industry. The longform pieces on Larry Nassar are perfect examples of the kind of work I strive to create.
Podcasting is another passion of mine so I will keep pursuing that and create and host more of my own podcasts, whether the topic involves sport, society, mental health, social justice, law, politics, women, relationships, or family. I have so many interests and passions and I know I could write or podcast about any of them; I don’t like to limit myself. I am enthralled by the most intimate parts of human beings and picking people’s brains apart — asking the questions others won’t ask — so, as long as I’m doing that in some capacity, I’ll be happy.
I also want to write a few novels. I know that I want to write a memoir, or a couple. I also have a few creative non-fiction and fiction book ideas that I hope to complete. But, I think writing a novel will come later in my life when I’ve felt I’ve gotten enough life experience to even write a novel, haha. Music is another huge passion of mine, and my secret dream is to be an EDM DJ/music producer at music festivals … but, that one may have to be put on hold for a little while. But knowing me, I’m likely to make it happen.
Stephanie Groves is the Executive Editor of Indy Maven.