I am an English major. My passion is books. Yet, this summer my first experience with the world of news printing has been fascinating. I’ve found that newswriting is almost a different language from essays and stories, which I am used to. More importantly, my experience has been marked by the scores of people I have met and interviewed.
Before this internship, my people skills weren’t the best. I’m very shy and often get nervous when I have to talk to “important” people. This summer I’ve learned how to overcome my anxiety to interview folks from all perspectives.
I’ve interviewed numerous artists and actors this summer, as I was primarily working with the Arts and Features editor. I am a person of the arts as well so starting my study in newswriting and interviewing with them was very easy. I’ve discovered feature writing is my preferred style, because it allows more freedom of language. I’m able to throw in my English and creative writing skills into it.
I covered a quilting exhibit at our local arts center as one of my first stories and interviewed the quilter. Later, I ran into her and her husband and they were impressed with the article. “You really captured her voice, I thought,” her husband commented. I also did a few people features for the paper and these were probably my favorite. I did a story on an antique storeowner, in whom I found a kindred brook-lover and we ended up talking about interesting editions of Alice in Wonderland. I interviewed a self-published deaf author via pen and paper because I don’t know sign language. That was an amazing experience. In the silence between writing a question and reading his response, I could he his reaction to what I wrote and his thinking process because he thought aloud in signs. Lastly I met an amazing woman who won her battle with cancer and then immediately went on to finish her doctorate degree in education. With each I focused on the slant they brought to the information themselves, what they kept bringing up in our interview, what they seemed to be the most passionate about. I suppose my style became more observational then direct Q and A. Through this I felt I was able to give a story that was true to the art and the person rather than a factual report.
However, news, local government, business, and sports coverage, though more factual in nature, also can be treated artistically. I wrote at least one story for every section of the paper and found each to be different. Local government news must be transformed into an easily understandable and short explanation. From shadowing our local government editor and reporter at EDP and City Commissioners meetings, I learned that it’s best to choose one small, yet important aspect per story to focus on. I heard many citizens and officials alike comment that our local government reporter is one of the best they’ve ever had in the city. She’s able to take incredibly complicated government matters and explain them in ways that even help the officials debating the issue. I looked to my experiences in her shadow in trying to write my own story about the fiscal court’s debate over their soon to expire waste management contract.
Through all of this I have learned that each section of news has its own linguistics and code. Business must be reported economically, government reported simply, features with voice, news with importance, and sports with energy. Even so, the most important thing I have learned in my experience as a KPA intern is that “important” people are just people and everyone has a story to tell.