Second week, several firsts

(Note: this summer, I’m blogging as a way to keep up with what I do on a week-to-week basis because I’m using my internship for course credit. Thus, what I write will probably be a little less idealistically philosophical and a little more writing what it is I’m actually doing.)

After a week of easing into the reporting intern life, I started shifting into high gear during my second week at the Telegraph Herald. To give you an idea of my work between Tuesday and Saturday (my new normal work week, which causes me to perpetually be asking what day it is), in five days, I produced five bylined stories, plus another short piece that just goes under a staff byline (I’m helping out with the paper’s Ask the TH section, where readers send in questions, and we try to find an answer). During one 8-hour shift, I produced two event stories, one that was completed while racing the last hour before print deadline.

While some of my work was fairly standard — event coverage of a children’s concert at a library, a Juneteenth celebration and a concert at a local festival — I actually managed a few firsts over the week.

On Thursday, I followed up a story I wrote about a meeting to discuss bridge repairs by, well, going to the meeting. The structure itself was fairly loose in that it was mostly members of the public asking questions and telling the DOT staff what they thought of different bridge repair options. So most of what I did was pull aside people before they left to ask them their thoughts. I’ve done meeting coverage before, but this was definitely much less structured than what I’ve done in the past. I also really enjoyed the feeling of gaining some expertise and accumulating a body of knowledge by covering multiple stories on a topic.

On a smaller note, this week marked the first time I got to use a press pass. I wound up covering a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert at this big festival that Dubuque hosts every year, fighting my way up to the railing before the concert started to find a few good stories from people in the crowd, staying for the first song and a half, and then darting back at 9:45 p.m. for a story due to the copy desk at 10:45 p.m. While the event itself wound up being a fairly standard story, I actually really enjoyed the aspect of pushing myself to finish something that quickly.

My big first for the week happened on Friday afternoon. My editor approached me to ask how busy I was at the moment, and while I had a few things I was preparing, I didn’t have anything extremely pressing. So she asked if I could do a story, and because if I’ve learned anything in the j-school, it’s “don’t say no if your editor asks you to do something,” I said I’d take it on.

The story turned out to be the results of a massive study about end of life care. Which meant data. Lots and lots and lots of data. I’ve spent my share of time looking up facts or hunting down statistics or finding numbers, but I’d never mined 20+ pages of Excel documents to interpret exactly what they said about a particular place. Now, it’s not to say that I went without help — I had some guidance on how to find what I needed. But admittedly, it was a bit overwhelming. So I hunkered down with my Excel sheets, waded through the data and gave a call to the media contact to make sure I had all my numbers and interpretations right. Was it the most fantastic story I’d ever written? Probably not, but considering that this was the first time I used data this heavily, I’m glad to have put something together in the span of a few hours, which I figure is something to be proud of.

Week 2 summary: Coverage of a children’s event at the local library, bridge repair meeting story, Juneteenth celebration story, Lynyrd Skynyrd concert coverage on a late-night deadline, data-based story on end-of-life care in Dubuque compared to other regions, one Ask the TH question

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