Jenny Johnson
Eastern Kentucky University
Grant County News

When I got the opportunity to be the Grant County News KPA intern I was shocked.  I remember the phone call I received from Editor, Jamie Baker-Nantz, telling me she chose me for the position.  I was walking from my photo/journalism class to lunch and I was completely silent after she told me.  I don't know if I was speechless or waiting for her to say “got-cha.”

The reality of it is I didn't think I was qualified to intern anywhere.  I just declared journalism as my major five months ago.  This past semester at Eastern Kentucky University was the first time I had ever taken any classes related to journalism and I had only written three or four columns for the Eastern Progress, the student newspaper.

So, when I started at the paper I was extremely nervous.  On the first day I got there 30 minutes early just because I couldn't stay seated at home and wait.  I was at the news office before anyone. 

The first day I was given a list of my duties as an intern.  The list included writing three to five stories per week, writing columns, using a digital camera and submitting three to five photos per week, covering beats including city council meetings, doing layout/design pages, etc,.  I thought, surely I won't do all of this and if I do, I'll be shadowing someone.

Well, that wasn't the case.  I was thrown out of the office taking pictures, getting interviews and going to meetings.

I was pushed out of my comfort zone this summer and I am so thankful.  I know if I would have been doing small things around the office or shadowing another reporter on events, I wouldn't have learned near as much as I have.

My first week as an intern I was assigned an economy story.  Jamie told me to see what I could get out of locals dealing with the economy and how it's affecting them personally.  When I was talking to her about it I tried to come off calm and relaxed about the whole thing but really I had never done anything like that and I wasn't OK with just walking up to a stranger around town and asking them questions with my notepad! 

Still, that day I went out and tried to talk to a few people.  The first person I talked to was walking around the Grant County Park.  I drove my car past her twice before I could get the nerve to park and walk up to her.  Finally, I did and thankfully she was a sweet lady and she talked my head off about yard sales. 

After that I was ready to talk to more people.  Sometimes I still have to give myself a pep-talk before I get out of my car but I never would have done it if I wasn't pushed to this summer.

Also, I have done numerous interviews with local people for all kinds of stories.  I have picked up the police reports, gone to the board of education meeting and taken photos of a few graduations.

When I am in the office I am normally writing, making phone calls, working my photos, helping with design and talking with Jamie.

I don't think Jamie realizes it but I have learned so much through conversation with her.  She always says there are things that you learn in school but the real education comes from listening to people who have actually been there and of course by doing the  job yourself.

One day I remember talking to Jamie for an hour straight, and when I say straight I mean while she shifted through her hundreds of emails and answered about five phone calls.  Still, we were able to talk about what she learned in college, what she learned by being the editor here, how in a small paper you will get to know so many people, who calls in, why they call in, how to write about deaths and how to cover an accident.  Even when we we're interrupted by a phone call, I listened to how she talked to the person calling in and the action she took afterward.

For the economy story I needed to contact as many local businesses as I could to get their sales this year compared to last year and see if they would talk to me about how their business was going.  I was so nervous to make a phone call that I spent time writing down all the stores I wanted to call and their phone numbers.  Then, I showed the list to Jamie, who I think noticed I was hesitant to call and listed the names of all the managers she knew at each store which gave me someone to ask for and gave me more confidence to call.

After I did call, I noticed my nerves went away after I started talking on the phone.  Now, I know if I can just get through dialing the number and introducing myself, I'm fine.

Before coming to the Grant County News, I had never used Adobe Photoshop, InDesign, Neo Office, anything really.  The other three writers Carrie, Bryan and Ryan have taken turns showing me how they do things.  I am now able to work my photos for the paper and Internet on Photoshop and design pages on InDesign by myself.

Right now I am not sure how I want my future to look like.  Career wise I don't know if I would like to try getting a job with a community newspaper, metro newspaper, travel magazine, or some kind of Christian magazine/newsletter.  However I do know that I have the skills to start.

I also know how I want to present myself and the attitude I want to bring to work everyday and I have learned that this summer. 

One thing I love about Jamie, Carrie, Bryan and Ryan is that they are genuine people.  I admire how they strive to make the work place fun and positive.  I also admire that if they are having a bad day they can realize it, do something about it, if possible, and then move on.  That isn't something you can learn in a classroom.  Honestly I have never came to work this summer with a bad attitude because I know there are friendly people there. 

I think if I could learn anything this summer it would have been to get confidence in my writing and reporting skills and learn how a journalist should be everyday on the job.  I know a reporter has to be computer savvy, know certain applications and be able to use a digital camera but if you have all of that but no confidence and a bad attitude, I don't think you will go far. 

That is the main thing I have learned as an Grant County News KPA intern and I think it is the most valuable lesson I could take away from here. 

Next time I apply for a writing position I will have confidence and I won't be silent waiting for the employer to say “got-cha.”  I know I have the right skills and attitude to be involved with any team I decide to in the future because of the learning opportunity I have been given this summer.