Newsroom Internship Has Been an Eye-Opener
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I bleed Carolina Blue. Ironically, though, my obsession with the news was a consequence of my love for Duke basketball.
When I was in seventh grade, I developed an enormous crush on a certain freshman sharpshooter who would go on to become National Player of the Year. I would devour all the Duke basketball articles the sports section of The News & Observer could feed me, fighting my dad over the rights to them every morning.
Naturally, I started reading the entire sports section - and eventually meandered over to the front page as well. Pretty soon, I was a full-on news addict.
I loved the newswriting style. But I was perpetually self-conscious about my writing and always shrank from the thought of putting my words out for the entire world to read. Talking to strangers also made me anxious. This can be a fundamental problem for journalists, whose attraction to the written word perhaps compensates for an introversion they feel when talking to real, live people.
But I persisted in my journalistic aspirations anyway, putting off the day when this fear would come to a head. The past school year, I avoided this sticky situation by spending my first year at The Daily Tar Heel as a deskbound copywriter.
What I never expected was to be writing articles, full time, for most of this summer. Then again, I never anticipated what an incredibly lucky draw, out of 13 sections, I would get for a newswriting professor. Apparently Editor Steve Bouser (Professor Bouser to me) thought my lead paragraphs and grasp of the inverted pyramid writing style were good enough for The Pilot, and he offered me a summer internship.
It seemed like an opportunity I would be foolish to decline, even though I had planned on a heavily social - but not so heavy on the resume-building - summer job as a camp counselor. And with gracious family members in Moore County willing to house me, I couldn't say no.
After nine weeks in Southern Pines, I have learned a lot - about journalism, and about myself. For instance, Moore County presents some unique challenges for directionally challenged interns from Raleigh. But eventually I conquered the dreadful phenomenon that is the Traffic Circle. My uncle's life-saving advice was: "If you're unsure, just keep circling."
A more important thing I have discovered in my time thus far at The Pilot is the importance of finding a way to care about the story you're writing, even when you think you don't. Assigned to go to the STARS school and write a story about a play, I arrived feeling generally indifferent to my task. But I left filled with delight at the energy and pride in their work that the kids had expended - and their excitement to be featured in their local paper.
If I pursue journalism as a career, I don't know what type I'd like to go into. I guess growing up fixated on writing for The N&O someday, I expected to find anything other than a daily paper mundane in comparison. But this foray into community journalism has been surprisingly enlightening and exciting.
My summer is already almost over. In a week, I'll be heading to Argentina, where as an international student I'll study journalism entirely in Spanish for a semester. When I arrive in Buenos Aires, a city with a metropolitan population close to 13 million, I won't know anyone. Nobody will meet me at the airport, and my permanent housing won't be arranged yet.
Everyone decided I should be freaking out at the prospect of going to South America by myself. My dad may not have been joking when he said he would get on the plane with me if I didn't sort out the details of my travels more to his liking. (He insists he is not a helicopter parent, but a "submarine.")
But my experience at The Pilot in my first internship has instilled a sense of confidence in me that I have never had. I guess after interviewing countless strangers, it's hard to be nervous about anything anymore.
Emma Witman is a newsroom intern with The Pilot.
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