Column: Life’s lessons learned through journalismFor me, few things were more stress-inducing than a formal phone call. Right away on my first day working at the Budgeteer — or as it’s called affectionately, the Budge — I realized that I would have to conquer this petty fear, and more, if I wanted to get anywhere in journalism.
By: Sarah Alabsi, Duluth Budgeteer News
For me, few things were more stress-inducing than a formal phone call.
Right away on my first day working at the Budgeteer — or as it’s called affectionately, the Budge — I realized that I would have to conquer this petty fear, and more, if I wanted to get anywhere in journalism.
Lesson 1: I learned to be confident. Small mannerisms behind the mask of an e-mail or a phone call can make it easy for people to develop an image in their heads of what I look like. This picture is usually ripped to shreds when I do eventually meet them for a story. I was once offered a beer while interviewing a couple at the Bob Dylan concert for the July 14 issue of the Budgeteer because my eye contact “held my ground.” My eye contact apparently also added five years to my age. The subjects of my news stories seem to always be caught off guard when they meet a 5-feet, 2-inch teenager entering her senior year of high school. What can I say? Journalism feasts on the element of surprise.
Lesson 2: I learned to be a big-picture thinker. For someone as meticulous as I, writing a story can be much more difficult than need be. For instance, a story may just be a happy piece about a local fireman receiving an award. I, however, would ask so many questions about minute things that at the end of the interview, I could write a 500-word article on the diet of his pet iguana. This problem was soothed by accustoming myself with a piece of writing terminology: the nut graf, which leads me to my third point.
Lesson 3: I learned to be familiar with journalistic jargon. Listening to editors and reporters, you hear a few terms that seem to be used in every other sentence. Words like lede, cutline, beat, op-ed and jump. I understood that if I wanted to be respected as an intern, I needed to learn the language of the people I was working for. I printed off flashcards with journalistic lingo and studied them when I wasn’t writing in the office. As I’m pretty sure the saying goes, when in journalism, do as the journalists do.
Lesson 4: I learned to not be afraid of emotion. I am aware that not every story I am assigned to will immediately grab my interest. Because of this, I understood that I would have to search for something to connect myself and the reader to the story. As objective as journalism should be, elements of emotion must be included to make the story more than just a list of facts. Whether it’s in quotes or pictures, emotion needs to be prevalent for the story to grab the reader’s interest.
Now might be a good time to acknowledge those who have helped me so much this past summer. I have a strong feeling of gratitude for the Pohlad Family Foundation and the Minnesota Newspaper Association for providing me and hundreds of other aspiring professionals with the opportunity to learn and be taken seriously.
To my editor Naomi Yaeger and her supervisor Robin Washington, and to fellow reporters, layout artists, ad salespeople, printers and support staff, thank you so much for your assistance and for helping make the newspapers that included my work.
And of course, thank you to those who have been featured in or have read my stories. Taking young people like us Pohlad interns seriously is the best way to display encouragement and kindness.
Over the time that I spent working for the Budgeteer, I realized that journalism isn’t just writing. It’s communication, it’s sharing, it’s giving. You’re communicating information that you have gotten from others and sharing it to those who are not yet aware of that content.
Just as people rely on doctors to heal them, lawyers to defend them and police to protect them, people rely on journalists to inform them.
I want to take the seeds of experience
I have gained from this internship, and plant them with the hopes of one day seeing a grown journalist rise from naiveté.