PROVINCETOWN — Aden Choate began a five-month Mary Heaton Vorse journalism fellowship at the Independent on Nov. 1., inaugurating the third season of a winter program that brings young reporters to Outer Cape Cod to learn about community journalism.
On assignment, she has already snaked through a crowd of voracious bidders competing for a chicken pot pie at the Provincetown Commons and interviewed state Sen. Julian Cyr about two new bills on Beacon Hill that could advance health-care equity. She has also begun forming an idea of what journalism means here.
“It’s propelled a deep sense of connection with the people who call this place home,” Choate said.
The chance to better understand people, Choate said, is what drew her to journalism in the first place. She grew up in Charleston, Ill., a town three hours south of Chicago near the border with Indiana. Her home community was small and conservative. Townspeople’s automatic distrust of the government, the media, and higher education confounded her, she said.
After she went away to high school at Phillips Exeter Academy, she said, “I began to want to understand the forces that shaped the place where I grew up.”
She is finding that journalism is a good way to gain that kind of understanding.
Choate enrolled in Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. She became editor-in-chief of Bossier magazine, a feminist publication with a staff of more than 60 fellow students. In 2019, Choate enrolled for a semester at the School for International Training in Quito, Ecuador.
It was a time of political reckoning in Latin America, with national uprisings exploding in Chile, Colombia, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Protests against austerity measures in Quito were reaching a boiling point while Choate was there. Finally, indigenous groups reached an agreement with the Ecuadorian government to reverse the measures, beginning collaborations between indigenous groups and the government.
“I was fascinated by the ways in which these conflicts emerged, and how they resolved themselves,” Choate said. “That seemed to be very distinct from what we witness at home.”
Choate’s love for Latin America stayed with her after she graduated from Georgetown in 2021, and last winter she spent six months backpacking by herself in the region. She visited Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, and Costa Rica. Her travels alternated long stretches of solitude with intense connections with fellow travelers and local people.
Choate spent the spring of 2022 as an editorial intern for the American Prospect and later returned there to work as a fact-checker. During the internship she wrote about rural public schools in Illinois and about resistance to carbon capture pipeline projects across the Midwest.
Choate hopes to develop breadth with her reporting at the Independent. She is interested in health care and reproductive and sexual health, education, and the regional environment.
Fact-checking for the Prospect, Choate said, “helped frame the reporting process.” And she thinks it will help her with the reporting she will do here.
Funds for Choate’s fellowship are provided by the Local Journalism Project — the nonprofit organization that partners with the Independent to rebuild the skills and practice of community reporting through the generosity of the Murray/Reese Foundation.
During the first part of Choate’s fellowship she is living in the Mary Heaton Vorse house, thanks to the Provincetown Arts Society. Vorse was a pioneering journalist and civil rights activist whose work inspired the Local Journalism Project’s winter fellowship program. —The editors